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Makara

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~Makara

"Rodan, I need to speak with you."

I pushed through the line of wolves and through the door into the office. Rodan had been avoiding me for the last 3 days, feigning that he was required on patrol due to his new position. They had just returned and I was determined to get what I wanted.

He turned from the conversation he was having and faced me with a clenched jaw.

"Leave us." He said to the room. His eyes remained fixed on me as everyone quickly filed out the door.

"How dare you demand my time." He growled as the door closed. "You may request an audience with me, as anyone else, but you are not entitled to it. I will not punish you, this time." He moved closer to me, pointing his finger to emphasize his words. "But, NEVER challenge me in front of my men again."

"By all rights," I began defiantly, knowing I had a little bit more rope now that we were alone. "They should be MY men."

He shot me a smug smile, casually moving to lean on the desk behind him. I saw it for what it was, a power play. He was trying to show me that he was the one in control, that he was comfortable despite my anger laced words.

"And yet, here we are. Those men, and many more besides, answer to me. Who answers to you, Makara? Hmm?"

I was silent and he allowed a scornful chuckle to escape him.

"Oh, come on. It can't be that hard to remember a list with no names on it. Is that what you're here to talk about? Are you still angry about what happened?"

Finding my words, I didn't hesitate to respond.

"Oh, you mean how you stole my birthright, my position and embarrassed me in front of the entire pack, while treating me like a doll with no thoughts or ambitions of my own? Why would I still be angry about that?"

"So, what then?" He ignored the obvious sarcasm in my tone. "What's done is done. There's nothing you or I can do about it."

I took a breath to steady myself. We had already had that fight. He was right, I couldn't do anything about it now and there was no way he would willingly compromise on the subject. It was no use wasting my breath on that. But there WAS something I thought he could do for me. One thing he SHOULD do for me, considering everything.

"I know. That's not what I came to talk about."

He eyed me questioningly and I continued.

"I want to be useful. To utilize my skills where they can be helpful." I tried to form it as though he were doing me a favor, that he was in control and I was at his mercy. "Please, Rodan. I learned the same things you did. I had the same training. My knowledge of pack laws, customs and traditions is extensive, and I know each Wolf by name."

It pained me to beg him for something that should be mine, but I was tired of being cast aside.

"And?" He asked as he crossed his arms in front of him.

"I want a position here. Have me be your second. I can back you up, handle things that are below you." It couldn't hurt to stroke his ego a little bit, make him feel important. "I know that there's a lot on your plate right now. I can help you."

"You mean you can help yourself." He scoffed and slowly pushed himself away from the desk. "You want everything that I have, that is no secret, and you expect me to just hand you a position where you will have access to intimate knowledge of my life and the inner workings of the pack? You think that I would give such a powerful position to someone I don't trust? That I would hand you everything you need to betray me? I am no fool, Makara, giving you that kind of control while you harbor such resentment towards me would be the greatest mistake of my career. But I suppose that's what you want, isn't it?"

It wasn't quite the reaction I was hoping for, but it wasn't unexpected. He hadn't outright said no, so I pushed a little further.

"Don't be so paranoid, brot-"

"It is not paranoia." He shot at me from behind his clenched teeth. "I'm merely being cautious. You say I don't have reason to worry. The only way that's true is if you're ready to accept that this position is truly and rightfully mine. Are you ready to do that, Makara?"

I managed to give him the slightest of nods. I didn't agree, but I knew this was the only way to get what I wanted.

"Well, go on then. I want to hear you say it." He watched me intently, not fooled by my hesitant acceptance.

It was just one little sentence, it should be easy. I tried to force myself to form the words, resulting only in a putrid taste on my tongue. I could not bring myself to say it out loud. I stared back at him silently.

"That's what I thought." He moved towards the door and swung it open, holding it as he spoke. "Your request is denied, you may leave."

Although I had hoped he would agree, I was not surprised that he didn't. I had expected he wouldn't want me as his second, regardless of my knowledge or skills. Truthfully, I was entitled to much more than answering to him but after everything that happened, I thought it best to set my sights much lower than that. And after asking for one of the most important positions in the pack, my next request would seem much more reasonable.

I walked over to where he was standing, hand still pointed out the door in an invitation to leave. I stopped, standing in front of him, pointedly refusing to leave.

"Then have me lead the Warriors."

He slammed the door in displeasure, giving a humorousless chuckle as he whirled on me.

"Tell me you're joking."

"I can lead them as well as any man. I have trained in combat every day since I was 10, just as you have. You know that I can do this."

He rolled his eyes and took a step towards me. With a deep breath, I prepared to defend my request and prove that this was the best decision for the pack, and for Rodan.

"You are young."

"I'm only a year and a half younger than you."

"You are unchanged."

"For now. It's only a matter of time."

"The men will not follow you."

"They will, if you encourage them to."

"There's still the issue of the unbalanced ratio between your self labeled ambition and the power this position would bring you."

"The men would still answer to you first. I would still answer to you." I cringed as those words left my mouth but was happy I managed to stifle any hesitation.

"You have no real world experience in battle. All you know is half choreographed drills your trainer has shown you."

He stared at me expectantly, waiting for a response.

"Do not belittle my accomplishments. I have bested all of my classmates and a good number of teachers in hand to hand combat and have impressive scores in stealth and speed. I would pose a challenge to most, if not all, of the men and women in our ranks. You cannot claim facts to be untrue just because you wish them to be."

I searched for a reaction on his expressionless face. I knew Rodan could be very prideful at times and he likely wouldn't appreciate my confrontation. Although I knew I was quickly approaching the line, I would not hesitate to cross it. It was pretty clear he was not going to grant this request either, but I wasn't going to let him deny me without a fight.

He took another step closer to me. Although his tone was calm, his body language betrayed the anger that lay just below the surface. I pushed away the slightly triumphant feeling at having rattled him.

"If you're so great, why didn't father have you lead the Warriors?"

I flinched as he hit a nerve and he smirked at the effect his words had on me.

"He was a selfish man who gave no thought to my happiness. He always claimed his decisions were in my best interest, to keep me safe."

"And why would you expect me to have a different approach to your employment?"

"Because I am not deluded enough to believe that you care whether I live or die."

His face softened briefly before he spoke.

"That's not true. It's much easier for me with you alive. Otherwise, I might have a pack rebellion to deal with."

"Yes, you would." I squared my shoulders, confident in the statement. "But that doesn't mean it would trouble you personally for more than a moment if I were killed."

"Hmm, I suppose you're right." He crossed his arms, his hand coming up to tap his chin as he often did when contemplating something. His next words were soft, as if he were talking more to himself than to me. "And if you were to be killed in the line of duty, I could hardly be blamed for that. There would be minimal backlash."

His words gave me an uneasy feeling, but being killed on the job was a risk I was aware of and was willing to accept.

"And this position, leading the Warriors, would make you happy?" He spoke at a normal volume, his words directed at me once again.

"Yes. Very happy." I allowed myself to feel relief. He was going to let me lead the Warriors, even if it was only because he thought I would die. I had confidence in me, even if he didn't.

"Then, no."

It took me a moment to register the word. My shocked brain refusing to lift my jaw from its dumbfounded position. I was finally able to force my voice back under my control.

"What do you mean, no?" Surely, he had to be joking.

"It's simple, really. I don't like you. I never have. Not since we were kids anyway. Father doted on you, he barely even noticed my accomplishments."

"Father gave you everything! He gave you titles, and responsibilities. He allowed me to train only because that's what was expected of me, but he never allowed me to do or have anything real. Nothing that I cared for, nothing that I was passionate about. He encouraged you in all your endeavors, and wrote mine off as silly hobbies. I've wished for him to treat me as your equal for my entire life, and now you're saying that you're jealous of me?"

He took a step towards me and I instinctively backed away from him. Cursing myself, I planted both feet on the ground, refusing to give another inch.

"Father," he began slowly. "Worked me tirelessly with no rest or reward. You had it easy. Call it jealousy, if you wish, labels won't change it. You will get no sympathy nor kind favors from me."

"Is it a favor if you expect me to fail? If you hate me so much, what's the problem with sending me to fight? Maybe I'll die and you can be rid of me."

"Yes, I had considered that as well. I'll admit that it was quite a tempting thought but I would rather you be alive and miserable, than happy and dead."

"Why?" I growled.

"Because it pleases me."

How dare he keep this from me out of spite. My anger threatened to launch me towards him, my hands itching to claw into his throat. My feet remained stubbornly on the floor, through sheer will.

"You have no right."

"Don't I?"

"No you don't! You are just as selfish as father ever was, more so. You are a snake. You care nothing of others and others will care nothing of you. I feel sorry for your mate, whoever she turns out to be."

"Makara, you should guard your words more carefully. You are beginning to try my patience."

If he thought this was bad, he should count himself lucky that I had somehow managed to keep my verbal onslaught from becoming physical. I knew I had found the line, but I didn't care.

"I will do no such thing. You are a bastard pup from a bitch who thought too highly of herself. Father didn't even hesitate to drop her when he found his mate. Everything you have right now should have been mine, WOULD have been mine if I had a cock to match yours. You are nothi-"

The form that had been my brother blurred in front of me, his movements quickened by the intensity of his anger. I tried to throw my hands up as I realized his intention but I was too late.

There was a sudden pain in both my arms as he gripped them, shoving me backwards into the wall. He deftly tucked one of my arms behind my back and pressed into me with his hard chest, pinning me in place. I tried to move my free hand to push him away. With almost no effort, he slammed my hand back into the wall and pushed his knee into my palm, effectively rendering that hand useless as well. My movement was restricted almost completely under his weight.

"I am the Alpha." His tone was even and calm and gave no indication of the struggle we were having. "I am YOUR Alpha. You will NOT speak to me like that."

I writhed to get free, grunting with the strain.

"What's wrong, Makara? I thought you could best any man in our ranks."

"You're not exactly part of the ranks, are you, ALPHA?" I spat the words between heavy breaths.

He chuckled and readjusted to regain what little ground I had won. My eyes widened in surprise as I felt something hard press into my abdomen. Rodan saw my expression and gave a knowing smirk.

"My apologies," he began, his words dripping with sarcasm. "My cock does not know the difference between sister," I felt his breath on my neck as he leaned closer. "And whore."

I stopped moving and pressed myself as far into the wall as I could. It didn't help.

"Although, now that I think about it, there's not that much difference anyway. After all, a hole is a hole right? Who cares who it's attached to."

I felt his cock twitch at the thought and I worked to control my breathing, trying not to make the situation worse. Apparently, I should have cared about the line.

"It looks like we finally found a way for you to contribute. I'm sure I don't have to explain." He began grinding his hips into mine, his knee pressing my knuckles painfully into the wall.

Without warning, my hand was in his and wrenched above my head, my other still twisted tightly behind my back.

"Rodan, don't."

"Don't what?" The fingers on his free hand trailed down my neck and over my collar bone. "You're the one who wanted a position here." When he reached the fabric of my neckline he moved his hand to my side. He slowly brushed his fingers over the sensitive area, sending shivers through me, even through the cotton of my shirt. "And I've got just the position for you." His hand moved lower still, until it tugged at the waistline of my jeans, tracing a line over the skin that lay just beneath.

I had known Rodan for my entire life and I never expected him to do something like this. I had thought better of him than to force himself on anyone, let alone his sister. How far would he actually take this? I was trying to be stern but I found my anger tempered by fear.

"Rodan." It came out breathier than I had intended. I wanted to say more, to scold him for his actions but I did not trust my voice.

"Shhhh." His fist wound through my hair, yanking my head back and forcing me to look at him. His nostrils flared and he took a deep breath through his nose.

Flashing a sinister smile he leaned in towards me.

"I win."

Confused by his statement it took me a moment to realize he had taken multiple steps back. His weight had been so constricting it almost felt strange to be free of it. My breathing was heavier than I would have liked and I swallowed hard, watching him suspiciously, not quite sure if this was a trap.

"Get out."

This time, I did exactly as he asked.

Chapter Text

His weight was on me again, pressing me back into the wall. My breath was short, as if something had stolen it away from me and I was fighting to get it back. His hands moved down my sides, resting just above my hips and slipping underneath the fabric of my shirt.

I gasped when he brought one of his hands around to cup my ass, sliding down my leg towards my knee. He encouraged me to lift my leg, placing it around him and giving him more room in between.

He inched closer to me, grazing his lips against my neck. As he kissed and nipped the sensitive skin he pressed his hardness against me, slowly moving his hips back and forth. With my legs spread the contact was direct and unrelenting. I found myself holding my breath.

"Rodan,"

He bolstered his movements when he heard his name, a pleading whisper on my lips.

It was then that I realized that there were no constraints on my hands or arms. I lifted them to his bare chest, feeling the hard line of his muscles. I continued down his ribs and abs feeling them tighten and loosen slightly with his movements. Sliding my arms around to his back I slipped them into the top of his pants, instinctively pulling him towards me, increasing the pressure he was putting on my core.

As if they had a will if their own, my hips rocked forward into his, timed perfectly with his movements. With the powerful sensation, I felt something begin to build. I had felt it before, but never at the hands of another person.

I threw my head back, as much as it could go with a wall behind me, and closed my eyes, preparing myself for the burst of pleasure I knew was about to arrive.

The weight pinning me to the wall disappeared, and the build up began to fade. All that was left was a shadow of a half realized orgasm.

I allowed my body to take over, not thinking about anything but the desperate need for release. Reaching my hand between my legs, I easily found my mark. Instantly, the feeling that I was right at the cusp returned. I had been so close before that it only took a few flicks of my wrist and I was there.

A quiet moan escaped me as I went over the edge. My muscles flexing as I thrust my hips into my hand over and over, riding the waves of my orgasm. When the feeling was too much I pulled my hand away, occasionally squeezing my legs together to enjoy the delightful burst of a shockwave. The feeling began to fade again, this time leaving only satisfaction behind instead of a gnawing urge.

For the first time I realized the sturdy structure of the wall I was leaning on was now soft and warm. Opening my eyes, I blinked away the blurriness of sleep, to be greeted by the white expanse of my ceiling.

I laid there for a moment, trying to piece together what happened, the evidence of what I had done still present on my fingers and in the familiar feeling that gently pulsed through me.

The memory of my dream came flooding back to me. Rodan. His lips. His hands. His -oh my god. And suddenly I knew exactly what had happened. I shot up, hoping that the new seated position would offer a different explanation of events. No such luck. I had touched myself to thoughts of my brother doing…things…to me.

Groaning, I rolled off the bed, feeling the sudden urge to shower, despite the fact that it was still the middle of the night. After tying back my hair, I stepped into the stream of water, setting it to the hottest temperature I could handle.

Rodan. I hated him. His face made me want to punch something. There was no way I was attracted to him. Especially after everything that happened yesterday. Him acting as though he was never handed anything just because he was a man. Him refusing to grant any of my requests. And whatever the hell that was at the end.

I had been scared at the time, not wanting him to touch me. When I got back to my own room I realized that was exactly what he had wanted; for me to be afraid of what he could make me do, to have me obey his orders for fear of what would happen otherwise.

It worked, although not entirely. I would be more wary of him now. I knew what extent he was willing to go to. But, I was angry. I let him instill fear into me, to have dominance over me.

I rationalized the dream away as my body's way of regaining control. If I allowed his actions, he couldn't force me to do anything.

I let the water pour over me for a few more minutes before deciding it wasn't really helping. Turning the water off, I stepped out of the shower, reaching for the nearby towel. Without wasting time drying off, I wrapped the towel around me and headed back to my bedroom through the adjoining door.

I rummaged through my dresser drawer trying to decide what to put on. The contrast between the hot water and the cold air had me reaching for the comfy sweatpants and oversized sweater.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up, alerting me to another presence in the room. My heart jumped in panic and I took a deep breath to try and steady it. I held my breath, trying to listen behind me, to hear any hints of who it might be and why they were here. I couldn't hear anything, but I knew someone was there, and who else would it be?

"Are you just going to stand there, brother?"

There was a chuckle from behind me and I froze as I realized the voice was much too deep to be Rodan.

"It's been a long time since I was offered such an insult. You would compare me to that worm?"

My heart started to race and I worked to calm it down. I had already failed yesterday to keep my fear in check, it wouldn't help to allow that again.

"You let yourself into a woman's room, uninvited, in the middle of the night. Yes, I think worm is an apt description." I stated casually, trying to project confidence and hoping I wasn't pushing it too far.

I slowly turned to face the man, dropping the clothes in my hand when I saw him.

"I suppose you're right."

My eyes widened in shock and I swallowed to keep my jaw from hanging loosely.

"Do you know who I am?" He questioned.

I nodded at him, scrounging up my courage. I would not be intimidated in my own home, in my own room.

"Are you afraid?" He took a few slow steps closer to me.

"Should I be?"

"Probably. But what fun would that be? Do you know why I'm here?" Another step forward.

"Because my father's dead and you mean to kill me."

"Very good." He turned away abruptly, moving towards the pair of reading chairs in the corner.

"Why? What have I ever done to you?"

"Done? Nothing." He sank into one of the chairs, motioning for me to sit in the other. I chose to stay where I was, not relishing the thought of moving closer to him. "Mostly, I just want to hurt your father. You were his prized possession and if he ever learned that you were slain by my hand it would kill him. If he weren't already dead, that is."

I rolled my eyes as an involuntary reaction to being called a possession.

"Then why wait until he is dead? Why not kill me when he was alive to feel the pain of his loss?"

"Why not put up more of a fight when your brother took up the title of Alpha?"

I glared at him, suddenly wishing my eyes were lasers. He smiled at me, not at all discouraged by my lethal stare.

"See, personal questions aren't as fun when you're not the one asking them. But, I'll make you a deal."

I continued watching him in silence, wary of what he was going to suggest.

"Come now, sit down." Feeling like I didn't have much of a choice, I walked over to the chair and tentatively sat down, suddenly aware of how short my towel was. He noticed as well as his eyes raked over my legs, starting from the edge of the towel down to my feet and back up again. "I've found myself in a habit of chatting with the people I'm to kill. I find it fascinating, for the most part, and it just makes the whole experience a bit more pleasant for me. If you wouldn't mind humoring me, and promising to be completely open and honest during our discussion then I will extend you the same courtesy."

"You want to have a conversation with me? One where neither of us can lie?"

"Well, one where we can lie but we both agree not to. But, essentially, yes, that's what I want."

He watched me patiently for my answer, but I wasn't quite ready to agree.

"And during this conversation you won't make any attempts to kill me, assuming I follow the rules, I mean."

"Right."

"But, when we're done the conversation you still intend to kill me."

"Also right."

"Then I would be delighted to extend my life by however many minutes I can stretch this conversation into. You first."

"Very well." He rubbed his hands together as if he were about to eat a delicious meal. "I waited until your father was dead because he was more powerful than me. Any attempt on your life would have surely ended mine."

"I think that is the most humble I have ever seen an Alpha."

"I am strong. Stronger than most, but so was Rune. I know my limitations, it would be stupid to pretend they don't exist. Your turn. I believe I have asked you a question."

"What do you want me to say?" Despite my impending demise, I grew more comfortable with each sentence, now that the adrenaline was wearing off.

"The truth. You are the only offspring between Rune and his true mate. That puts you first in line for leadership of the pack. Rodan would only be heir if Rune's true pairing bore no pups, or if you were killed without an heir of your own. And yet you sit here, a barely acknowledge princess while your brother takes up the title of Alpha. Tell me why you let that happen."

I gritted my teeth, frustrated at having to recall this particular memory. But, I had made a deal so I continued anyway.

"The pack loves the image of me that my father presented them with my entire life. The sweet, innocent girl that loved her daddy. My brother made the pack believe that I wouldn't be a good leader. My father didn't give me enough freedom to prove him wrong. When father was dying, Rodan announced to me his intentions of challenging me for Alpha. I told him I would fight him for my title, and I would win."

I was surprised by how intently he was listening. He really was interested in the conversation.

"He made the fight a pack event. Everyone came out to see the little angel taking on the big Warrior, the Alpha's son. I didn't know at the time but, I found out that for months he had been spreading rumors through the pack. Nothing major, that would be difficult to believe. Only small things, like how I received special treatment in my combat classes because of my father. That I had yet to master the most basic of drills and that I would still run to my father's room during a storm. All things that would undermine me, make me look weak."

"Are any of those rumors true?"

"Of course not," I shot back at him. "But that didn't matter to the pack. This information had been common knowledge in their eyes for quite some time. They turned against me. Well, sort of. They all thought it was adorable that I would take on Rodan. That it was so cute I would even try. They wouldn't let me fight. Every single one of them demanded that I forfeit, claiming they were trying to stop me from getting hurt. No one listened when I asked them to trust me, that I could win. So I had to forfeit. What good is an Alpha, or a Luna for that matter, without a pack. Rodan just gave me a disgustingly satisfied smile, knowing that he got what he wanted. He went to our father immediately to tell him of his victory. He took Rodan's word as truth and never asked for mine. That same day he declared to the pack that Rodan would be taking over his position. A couple of weeks later, when father knew he had only hours left to live, he allowed Rodan to stab him through the heart, bypassing the intended chain of succession."

He leaned forward, steepling his fingers.

"I imagine that would cause a certain amount of resentment towards your brother."

An image from my earlier dream flashed in my mind unwarranted. Horrified, I tried to push the thought away.

"Not that I was very enthused about his overall existence before that, but, yes, I feel resentment towards him."

His nostrils flared and he licked his lips, leaning back into his chair.

"But that's not all, is it? Something else happened with Rodan."

"What? No. Nothing else."

His face turned to stone and his voice took on a dangerous edge.

"Don't lie to me. Your scent betrays you."

"What scent?"

"You don't smell it?"

"I don't smell anything."

The gentle lines of a smile returned to him as he chuckled.

"Interesting. You are unshifted, you have yet to meet your wolf."

I felt the heat in my cheeks as they reddened.

"So? Are you gonna tell me what you're smelling or what?"

He smirked and eyed me up and down again.

"Arousal."

"No way. Nuh uh. Don't be gross. That's my brother you're referring to."

Another flash from my dream invaded my thoughts, combined with the memory of what I had done. I felt a subtle urge to repeat my deed. It lasted only for a split second before I shook off the distraction and brought my attention back to the Alpha in front of me.

"There it is again. Are you gonna tell me you didn't just think about something that turns you on?" He shifted in his seat as though he were uncomfortable

Damn. I hated being unshifted. Everyone around me had already paired with their wolves, and therefore had more powerful senses. It made me uncomfortable knowing I was giving them information about me without even realizing it.

"I am not attracted to my brother." I decided to more or less ignore his question, hoping he wouldn't notice.

"Fine. But I still want to know what happened. I'm sure if you think about it an event will stick out in your mind."

I sighed. I had promised myself I would never speak of what happened with anyone. This Alpha seemed to have a knack for asking the tough questions, although I suppose that was probably the point.

"Yesterday, he got mad at me because I pushed something too far. He pinned me to a wall, rubbed his bulge on me, and threatened to make me have sex with him," I said, trying to sound disinterested.

"But he didn't. Force you, I mean."

"No."

"Why not?"

"What do you mean why not?" I asked in confusion.

"Why didn't he force you? Did you beg him to stop?"

"Well, I told him not to, but I wouldn't say that I begged."

"Did you fight him?"

"I tried at first, but I couldn't really mo-."

"Then why did he stop?"

"I don't know," I began, feeling a little defensive. "He was rubbing against me one minute, and the next he leaned in and said "I win" and then backed off."

"And why did he say that?"

"How am I supposed to know? I assumed it was because he knew I was afraid."

"I don't think that's why."

"Then please, enlighten me."

He stood from his chair, slowly pacing through the room as he spoke.

"In those situations, do you know what I look for more than fear?" He didn't wait for me to guess. "Submission. I would bet my life that your brother smelled your arousal as clearly as I did." I opened my mouth to protest but he cut me off. "Don't bother telling me you weren't aroused. The very air is thick with the scent of your desire just from thinking about it. You can't fake physical reactions. He told you to want him, and you did. That's why he won."

He came to stand beside my chair, where I was still seated. Turning to look at him I did not miss the fact that he was obviously enjoying this topic. His pants were stretched tightly over him, revealing the perfect outline of his long shaft. I felt a familiar twinge between my legs. I looked up to his face to see if he would notice. He was already smirking.

"Well, whatever. As you said, you can't fake a physical reaction, but you can't deny it either. My state of arousal, as you insist on calling it, has no bearing on my feelings for my brother. Or you for that matter. It was just a body reacting to physical contact, nothing more."

"Of course. So is that what inspired your little performance earlier?" He motioned towards the bed.

Mortified, my jaw dropped.

"You. Saw. That?"

"Of course." He took a few steps to sit on the arm of the opposite chair. "You didn't think I somehow managed to arrive in the 15 minute window when you were in the shower, did you? My timing's not that impressive."

"So you were just watching me sleep?"

"Right up until the part where I was watching you cum, yes."

"Why wouldn't you just kill me in my sleep? Or wake me up?"

"I told you, I like to chat with people first. Plus, I don't wake people who are sleeping, they usually scream."

"And you don't like screaming?"

"Not really. Especially when I'm not supposed to be in that particular place at that particular time. Like now, for instance."

"But you're here to kill me. What if I scream then?"

He slumped his arms in disappointment.

"I really hope you don't. I've actually had a really great time this evening and I wouldn't want anything to ruin it."

"You mean ruin it any more than my death would?"

"Right. Speaking of which, I should probably get a move on that."

He pushed himself off the chair and took a step towards me with outstretched arms, grabbing me by the shoulders and pulling me towards him.

"Wait! We're not done talking."

"Yes we are."

Chapter Text

"Are you not a man of your word?" I pushed against him and he allowed me to step backward out of his grasp.

A low growl emanated from him, his displeasure at having his honor questioned and a challenge to the idea.

"You offered me the same courtesy, if I were to humor you."

His growl abruptly ended as he spoke.

"Yes, and I complied. Everything I told you was the truth."

I stepped away from him hoping to put a bit more distance between us. He had a different idea and followed closely behind me.

"I'm sure it was." I searched for a way to extend the conversation, hoping to avoid my death for as long as possible. "But you hardly gave me the opportunity to ask any questions. You know a great deal of rather personal information about me, and all I know about you is that you thought my father was stronger than you and you like it when people want you. That hardly seems fair."

A small laugh graced his features and he leaned backward onto the chair, crossing his legs at the ankles.

"Very well then, if you insist. Ask your questions."

"As many as I want?"

"As many as I have patience for."

I didn't waste any time.

"How did you get in here?"

"Not all the human staff on the estate is as loyal as they would have you believe."

"And you had them take you directly here, to my bedroom."

"Yes."

"Do you intend to kill Rodan as well?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I do not consider him a threat."

"But you consider me a threat?"

"No. You already know the reason I'm going to kill you."

"To hurt my father."

"Right."

"And you think murdering me is the best way to do that?"

"I do."

A thought came to me. A way he could have what he wanted, and I would get to live. I walked up to him slowly, stopping when I stood in front of him. My idea sent excited pulses through me. I kept my feet a shoulder width apart, hoping this incessant scent of mine would actually help in this situation.

His nose twitched and I smiled, knowing it had reached him as intended.

"And what if I made you a deal?" I asked tentatively as I reached forward to finger a button on his shirt.

"What sort of deal?"

"I offer you my innocence in exchange for my life."

He laughed deep in his chest and paced away from me, brushing away my hand.

"That is something that would have truly aggravated my father. His little girl offering herself to his biggest rival."

"And why would you do that? To your father? Why would you hurt him like that?"

"He was a good man, and a great Alpha, but he was no father to me, only a dictator. I care very little of his feelings."

"Do you think I cannot get laid on my own. That I would have to scheme and bargain and threaten my way into someone's pussy?"

I followed him across the room.

"I'm sure there are plenty of women who want you. But, there are not plenty of women in this room. There is only me. And you want me."

"Do I?"

"Yes, you do. My scent makes you hard and you've wasted no opportunity to inspect every inch of my bare skin."

"I am more than twice your age. You are very young, barely a woman."

I suspected he was just being stubborn. As he mentioned earlier, if he admitted he wanted me, I would win.

I moved closer to him. This was my only chance to get out of this alive. Talking wasn't helping anymore.

"I am barely a woman? Do I not look like a woman?" I asked him, slowly unfastening the towel I was wearing and letting it drop to the floor. I took another step forward, pressing myself against him. I felt another wave of excitement and smiled as I heard him inhale deeply. "Do I not feel like one?" I lifted his hands to my body, giving him permission to touch. He allowed himself to explore my skin and pulled me tighter towards him. "Do I not taste like one?" I leaned in, gently grazing my lips against his. My tongue came out to flick his top lip before softly kissing him once and then pulling away.

Unexpectedly, his fingers were gripping the back of my head, tangled in my hair, pulling me towards him. His lips claimed mine with a ferocity I had never experienced. His tongue fought for entrance to my mouth. I don't think I could have stopped him if I tried, not that I was particularly inclined to try right at the moment.

I pressed my legs together, a quiet moan escaping me as I found the friction I was looking for. A satisfied growl came from him and he pulled away. I staggered as he released me.

He wiped at the corners of his mouth with his thumb and watched me fight to catch my breath. He smirked at me, knowing he had taken back control when he kissed me like that.

This man has told me about a dozen times that he was here to end my life and all I wanted to do was continue that kiss. What was wrong with me?

"Alright, you're not wrong. But, what's to stop me from taking you, willing or otherwise, and then killing you anyway?"

"Nothing," I managed to respond in a somewhat normal tone. "But is the point not to take from my father the one thing he claimed to love more than anything? If you still intend to kill me, then I will not sleep with you. If you force yourself on me then I will fight you, tooth and claw. And I promise you, my father would be very proud of me."

"Would you still be considered a willing participant if it takes the threat of death for you to open yourself to me? Would he not still be proud of you for finding a way to stay alive?"

"You're right, he would be." I moved past him. As I reached the bed I turned around and was not surprised to find he had done the same, not willing to let me out off his sight. He watched me from where he stood, unashamed, as he devoured my naked form with his eyes. "But, if you were to give me your word, right now, that no harm would come to me tonight, there would be no incentive for me to sleep with you. Other than the fact that, if you were to do that, I don't think I'd be able to resist you." I allowed my hand to travel down my body, hoping to accentuate his desire by reaching between my legs.

"So the question is whether you would be able to resist me in the first place." He walked up to me slowly, surprising me when he replaced my hand with his. "If I said I was still going to kill you, would you be any less wet?" I closed my eyes as his fingers started to tease me. I struggled to listen to his words as his actions caused my head to feel light, as if it were floating.

I gasped as he removed his hand without warning. Placing his hands on my hips he lifted me, and tossed me backwards onto the bed. I landed with a soft grunt and before I truly realized what was happening he appeared above me.

He leaned into me, making sure I could not close my legs. His left arm positioned beside my head for support, his right disappeared outside my field of vision. I was about to look down to see what it was doing when he surprised me again with a frenzied kiss. A moment later, I knew what had kept his right hand so busy as he placed his hard length against my sensitive center.

He stopped the kiss, sliding his cock up and down, soaking himself in my juices. I couldn't help but notice how much smoother it was than his finger.

"If I told you I decided to kill you when this is over, would you want me to stop? Would you tell me to?" He positioned himself at my entrance, applying gentle pressure, but being careful not to sink inside.

I tried to contemplate his question. My head was fuzzy with lust and need. Of course I wanted to live, but, if he was going to kill me anyway, should I deprive myself to spite him? My desire won out. If these were my last few moments, then I wanted to enjoy them.

"Don't stop." I tried to push myself down onto him.

"Ah ah ah." He said pulling away, not letting me have control. I'm sure if he had a free finger he would have wagged it at me. "Tell me you want it."

"Please, Alpha. Silas, I want you."

He pressed against my opening again and moved to whisper in my ear, his warm breath sending shivers down my spine.

"Begging. Now that, dear girl, would have killed your father."

I groaned in protest at the sudden loss of contact as he quickly got off the bed. I lifted my head just as he tucked his still raging erection back in this pants.

"What are you doing?"

"Leaving." He said, as he deftly did up his zipper and button.

"Not that I'm complaining, but you're not going to kill me?" I moved to sit on my knees, feeling more secure in that position.

"You didn't seem very concerned by the prospect of death a few seconds ago."

"Yes, well I'm sure you noticed but I was a little distracted."

"I got what I wanted. You begged me to take you and you can't even say it was just so I wouldn't kill you. You wanted me. You even tried to slither yourself down onto my cock. And that's the biggest fuck you to Rune I think I'll ever manage."

He turned away from me.

"Why did you stop?"

He scratched at the back of his head but stayed silent.

"Honesty and openness. We're still doing that right?"

Sighing, he began to speak.

"This whole thing, you coming onto me, started because I was going to kill you and you hoped that would convince me not to, yes?"

"Yes."

"That's why I stopped."

I watched him for a moment as he headed toward the door.

"Take me with you."

"What?" He stopped in his tracks, his confusion evident in his voice.

"Take me with you," I repeated. "With the way I challenged Rodan yesterday and the fact that your scent is now undoubtedly all over my room, my bed, I will surely be killed or raped or both within the week.

He stared at me and I could see the indecision in his eyes.

"Pack whatever you need. You have 1 minute, I won't wait a second longer." He pulled out a phone and quickly dialed a number

Relieved, I shot off the bed. I ran first to the dresser to throw on a change of clothes, and then to the closet to load up my bag and find a pair of shoes. I could hear him talking to someone as I worked.

"Ready the car, we'll be out in a few minutes…No she's coming with me…I don't need the chloroform…Because I'm not kidnapping her…No, I'm not…No, I'm not…She asked to come...Yes, I'm sure…Is the route still clear?…Perfect...And Bash?…If you ever question me like that again, I'll have your tongue."

He hung up as I finished stuffing the last of my toiletries into my bag.

"Let's go."

I ran to follow him. He swung open the door and quickly checked each direction before stepping out into the hallway.

I was nervous about leaving but I thought it was for the best. Nobody would believe that the Alpha of our rival pack broke into my bedroom to NOT rape or kill me. Besides, after my experience with Rodan, I knew I would never be allowed to be happy here.

He brought me down a number of corridors before we met up with a human just outside the main kitchen. I recognized him as our head domestic, Walter. He was in charge of overseeing the staff, including setting the schedule which explained why we hadn't run into anyone on our way here. Walter reported only to Rodan, and apparently Silas.

The human blanched when he saw me and I waved at him, amused by his reaction.

"It's fine. She's coming with me. Open the door."

Walter was quick to follow orders and walked into the pantry. He disappeared behind a shelf and I heard him tinkering with something metal.

"It's ready."

Silas and I joined Walter in front of the open door. I looked into the darkness and heard Walter speak from behind me.

"It's a tunnel. Let's out just outside the fence."

I turned and gave him a polite smile. It was weird to think that if I had found this twenty four hours ago, I would have ordered it filled in. Or more specifically, I would have told Rodan who would have ordered it filled in. But now, I was happy it was here.

Silas handed Walter an indeterminate amount of money, rolled tightly in a large wad.

"Make sure this gets sealed as soon as we leave. I won't likely use it again."

"Of course, sir. And thank you." Walter said, patting the pocket where he had stashed his money.

"Move." He motioned me into the tunnel, following closely behind. When the door clicked behind us, I heard a rustling and blinked as the tunnel was suddenly illuminated. After a few seconds I could see that Silas had turned on the flashlight on his phone.

"How long has this been here?" I questioned.

"A few months. When Rune got sick he was unusually distracted. I took some liberties I wouldn't have otherwise."

We walked for a few minutes in silence. There was a question that had been gnawing at me and when I saw the end of the tunnel growing near, I decided to ask it.

"How much did you give Walter?"

"What?"

"How much was it worth to you to have access to me? How much money did you give Walter?"

"Not as much as he could have gotten."

We stepped out of the tunnel less than a minute later. A car waited for us a few meters away. The headlights were out but from the light of the estate I could see there were three other people waiting, two waiting outside the car and one seated in the driver's seat.

One of the figures spoke as we closed the distance to the vehicle.

"Hey guys. Quick, Makara, blink twice if you're here against your will."

I could practically hear Silas roll his eyes and the person I assumed to be Bash, laughed.

"Don't worry, I'm just kidding." He placed his arm over my shoulder and I gave him a nervous smile.

"Well, well, well. Seems like the two of you had a little more fun than was originally planned, if you know what I mean." I felt my face flush as he pulled his arm back to nudge me with his elbow. "No time for a shower?" He turned the other direction, about to nudge Silas as well. He decided against it when he saw the glare Silas was giving him.

"Shut up, Bash. Get in the car."

Bash did as he was told with a sigh and a chuckle.

"Cade?"

"What?"

The response came from the other figure leaning against the car.

"Tell Sylvia to get the guest room in my suite made up. Makara will be staying with me."

I looked at Silas, surprised by the revelation.

"Yes, Dad." My attention flipped to Cade. I hadn't expected to meet his son only seconds after leaving the estate. I immediately saw the resemblance and made note to compare them again in the day light.

Cade pulled out his phone and began typing out a message. He opened the car door and motioned for me to get inside. I crawled into the back and fastened the seatbelt of the middle seat around my hips. Once everyone was in the car, I was pressed between the bulk of Cade and Bash. Silas had, unsurprisingly, gotten in the front.

"Take us home, Henry." Silas said to the driver.

I heard the gravel crunching underneath the car as we started forward. I turned to look at the estate through Bash's window, watching it get smaller and smaller as we drove away.

Chapter Text

I hadn't slept much, still thinking everything that had happened tonight must be my imagination; some hallucination my rage addled mind had conjured up when Rodan basically told me it was his mission to ensure I was unhappy for the rest of my life. Afterall, how could it be real? How could everything have changed so quickly?

I sat on the bed, trying to avoid the prospect of leaving the room. I knew on the other side of the door, was Silas. Seeing Silas again would leave no room for doubt. It would force me to acknowledge that this was, in fact, real.

I normally kept my behavior in check, something that my father insisted I do, particularly in public. I thought back over the events of the last eighteen hours. In that time, I had challenged my brother and Alpha, verbally purging my rage in what was apparently the worst possible way; got myself off to the idea of fucking my brother; been threatened with rape twice, and murder half a dozen times; attempted to seduce my would-be rapist assassin, instead, allowing him to seduce me; begged said assassin to take me and felt true disappointment when he pulled away and ran away with the Alpha of our rival pack to a life in which I had no idea what to expect.

"I'm not attracted to my brother," I said to myself getting off the bed to look out the window. "And I only let Silas seduce me so he would let me live." I tried to pretend I didn't know how much of that was a lie.

'I would rather you be alive and miserable, than happy and dead.'

Rodan's words played in my head again and I knew I had made the right choice in leaving.

Deciding it was time to face Silas, and whatever else was waiting for me in this life, I turned and marched towards the door. I nearly jumped out of my skin as I reached for the doorknob and a high pitched noise rang out through the room.

It took me a moment to determine the ringing was my cellphone. I looked to the bed where, after a futile attempt to distract myself with games, I had tossed it. Picking it up, I read the name on the call display and slid my finger on the screen to accept.

"Rodan."

"Walter tells me you're not in your room." Came my brother's calm voice, masking the anger I knew he was hiding.

"Does he? And what would Walter be doing in my room to acquire such knowledge?"

"I tasked him with retrieving you."

"So you haven't been to my room then? Is that too much effort for you?"

"It's simply a waste of my time. I have responsibilities, as do you."

"I thought my only responsibility was pretending to be the helpless little daughter of an Alpha."

"Exactly. The feast is tomorrow. Your place is by my side with your mouth shut, where everyone can see you, but not hear you. The pack needs to see that you support me."

"But I don't."

"That's irrelevant."

"Are you sure? You schemed your way into my title and although the pack allowed it, they still look to me for support of their decision. They know they betrayed me and they want me to tell them it's okay. That is our human side, brother, the need to have our decisions validated, to remove ourselves from the responsibility of our choices. What do you think will happen if I don't say it's okay? If I publicly show my lack of support for you? If I declare myself the true leader of the pack? How much discord do you think it will sow?"

"So you mean to start a pack war?" Rodan chuckled. "Is it not enough that we barely have peace with the other packs and races? Wolves from all over are disappearing and you would make their homes unsafe as well? Very well, sister," he spat the word at me. "If a war is what you want then I will not stop you from instigating one. However, I do ask that you keep one thing in mind. You may have the support of a goodly portion of the pack, most of the pack even. But the Warriors are sworn to obey and protect the Alpha, to obey and protect me. Do you think they would abandon their oaths so quickly? Would you pit the common wolf against those who have trained in combat for years?"

I knew starting a pack war, fighting for what was mine, would cost too many lives. If innocent lives had to be sacrificed for what I wanted, it wasn't worth it and he knew that.

"You know that I wouldn't."

"So we're finally agreed on something. Now hurry up, we need to go over the specifics for the feast and unfortunately you need to be there."

"I'm not going."

"Oh really? And what would you have me tell the pack?"

"Tell them whatever you want. Tell them you killed me."

"I'm not joking. Get to my office immediately, I'm not wasting time searching the estate for you."

"I'm not on the estate."

"Don't play games with me, Makara, where else would you go?"

"Oh come on, Rodan, you're smarter than you look and there's a big enough clue. I'm sure if you try really hard, you'll figure it out."

I ended the call, rolling my eyes.

Swinging open the door, I scoffed as my phone began to ring again. I swiped away the call and continued through to the living room.

Silas was already awake. He sat shirtless, his bare shoulders visible over the back of the couch. I wandered around to the large armchair across from him, sinking into it, trying to avoid raking my eyes over his exposed muscles.

I watched as he read the file in his grip, his other hand curled casually around a mug of coffee. The muscles in his arm flexed as he brought the hot beverage up to his mouth.

I cleared my throat, trying to get his attention. He peered at me over the top of his file and I shot him an awkward smile.

"Sleep well?" He questioned, tossing the file on the couch beside him.

I was relieved he had spoken first. If I were perfectly honest, I had no idea what to say. We hadn't talked much when we arrived last night. He pointed me in the direction of my room and then locked himself in his. I wasn't sure what was expected of me, or what I expected of him.

Before I could respond, there was a loud ping from my phone. Begrudgingly, I read the message that had come through.

"I AM YOUR ALPHA! YOU CANNOT DISOBEY ME LIKE THAT!"

My head began to hurt as message after message rolled in.

"WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?"

"DON'T THINK FOR A SECOND THAT I WON'T FIND YOU!"

"ANSWER ME RIGHT NOW OR I WILL TEAR YOUR ROOM APART!"

"I suppose Rodan has figured out you've left."

"Yes, he has. He wants me to go to his accession feast tomorrow." Sighing, I turned my attention back to the calm, rational Alpha in front of me. "He wants to parade me around as a loving, supportive sister."

"And you don't want to go."

"No I don't. He just wants me back under his control, so he can make sure that I'm miserable.

"And to avoid a pack war, right?"

My eyes narrowed at him and he smiled.

"You were eavesdropping?"

"Wolf hearing," he began, chuckling. "Plus, your room's only 5 steps behind me. I don't think I could have avoided it if I tried."

It was really inconvenient being unshifted. It made it difficult to judge what hearing distance was. I made a mental note not to take any personal phone calls if there was a chance Silas was nearby.

"Anyway, there isn't much risk of a pack war," I started, ignoring his intrusion into my privacy. "Unless I'm there to publicly denounce his accession, he'll make up some excuse for my absence." My phone continued to ping as I finished speaking.

"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, MAKARA!"

"DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU'RE SAFER WITH HIM THAN YOU ARE WITH ME?"

I swiped away another attempted phone call, rolling my eyes before settling them back on Silas.

"Has he figured out where you are yet?"

Before I could answer, he reached for his phone that began vibrating on the table.

"I guess that answers that question." He pressed a button on his phone and raised it to his ear.

Rodan didn't wait for Silas to greet him.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" I was glad to see that his anger caused his voice to echo through the phone. I didn't need sensitive wolf ears to hear him.

"Right this moment? I'm trying to have a conversation, but it keeps getting interrupted."

"You kidnapped my sister." Rodan said, ignoring Silas' flippant remark.

"I did? Are you sure? Doesn't kidnapping involve some kind of force? I can assure you, she came very willingly. Begged me to take her, in fact." He winked at me, knowing Rodan wouldn't realize the double meaning of his words. I felt heat rush to my face.

"Is this you measuring your dick against mine? You think you're better because you came into my home and stole my sister away in the middle of the night?"

"Come now, Rodan. I have no interest in the size of your dick. Besides, that would be much like comparing twigs to logs, wouldn't it?" Silas smiled as a growl reverberated through the phone. "You should just be happy she's alive. I had intended to kill Makara, but she can be quite…persuasive" Silas dragged out the word, letting it hang in the air, dripping with innuendo.

"Are you telling me you fucked her?"

"That's not what I said. But, I will admit she is a tempting treat, isn't she? I'm sure you've noticed." I looked away, my cheeks burning as he eyed me.

"I am the Alpha of your rival pack. You can't think it's a good idea to piss me off."

"Honestly, I'm not all that worried. You're very young, very inexperienced. You don't have the balls to attack me directly. Even if you did, I wouldn't hesitate to separate your skeleton from the rest of you."

"You were not so careless with your words when my father reigned."

"Yes, well, your father was as ruthless as I am, if not more so. And maybe you will be too, one day. But not now."

"My Warriors remain as strong as when my father commanded them."

"I'm sure they are. But should any of them cross into my territory without my prior knowledge, that would be an act of war and I promise you that I will retaliate, in full force. When your father was alive, your pack had the stronger Alpha. It was only a small difference in our prowess, but a difference none the less. My pack has always had the stronger army. Now that Rune is dead, we are superior in both aspects. Do you want to risk years of peace and the lives of every Wolf under your command?"

"Do I want to risk it? Did you not already throw our treaty out the window when you entered my home? When you took my sister? I would ask how you even managed such a feat but I don't think you'd tell me. It was, no doubt, some underhanded scheme, since you obviously lack the courage to face me directly. You rely on the cover of darkness to protect you."

Silas chuckled from deep in his chest.

"It's cute that you think this has anything to do with you. The treaty states that no army shall step foot in another pack's territory without authorization, it says nothing about Alphas. Had I successfully killed Makara, I suppose that could be seen as an act of war, but since she's sitting right across from me, I don't think the committee will see it as such."

"You still kidnapped her."

"Do I need to get you a dictionary? I did not kidnap her. I rescued her. She told me of your wandering hands, and your overeager pelvic assault. No wonder she wanted to get out of there."

"How I demonstrate my dominance over my pack is none of your business." Rodan growled. "And I'll have you know that no matter what she claims, my so called assault had the air filled with the scent of her."

"And eliciting that reaction is not enough, you need to tell me about it as well? Would you have me praise you? Very well. Exemplary work in arousing your sister, Rodan. Although, I had a very similar experience with her and I believe her delicious scent was rewarding enough. I don't require a pat on the back."

I stared at Silas, dumbfounded as he spoke.

"Maybe you could change the subject?" I whispered, desperately hoping to avoid any more references to my recent behavior.

Aggravatingly, Silas only smiled in response.

"You broke into my home!" Rodan shouted, reaching for something that would put him at an advantage over Silas, who seemed to have an answer for everything.

"Now that, I did. And you have my most humble apologies," Silas said with some semblance of sincerity. "However, that still wouldn't be considered an act of war in the eyes of the committee. Merely an infraction of the treaty, for which I will happily pay whatever monetary fine they deem adequate. You can bring it up at the next meeting. You are coming, aren't you?"

The line went mostly quiet, the only thing to be heard was Rodan's breath as he forced it angrily through his nostrils.

"Yes, I will be there." I didn't have to see him to know that Rodan's teeth were clenched. "And you can arrange for the return of my sister at the same time. She'll be leaving with me when the meeting is over."

Silas glanced over to me and I quickly shook my head.

"It looks like she's declined your invitation so I don't think I'll be doing that."

"Don't be ridiculous, Silas! She belongs here. What would you even do with her?"

"I'm not sure yet. I might give her a position here, or put her in one. Employ her advanced training somewhere useful, or enjoy her talents elsewhere." His eyes never left me as he listed the options. I knew he was choosing his words carefully, to get a rise out of Rodan. But, a part of me felt like he was talking directly to me. "But, whatever I decide is none of your concern. Why are you so worried, Rodan? She wants to be here and isn't she just a constant threat to your title? Why not be glad to have her so far away, where she can't meddle in your affairs."

"She does not threaten me."

"I think we both know that she does. But, no matter, my patience for this conversation is virtually gone, so unless you plan on declaring war, I'll be going now."

Without giving Rodan a chance to respond, Silas ended the call. I immediately felt sorry for Rodan's phone, which I expected, from what I knew of him, had just experienced a violent impact with the wall.

Getting up from his spot on the couch, Silas walked his empty mug through an archway that I assumed led to the kitchen. Following him, I discovered I was correct.

"Thank you."

"For what?" He asked, placing his mug in the sink and turning to face me.

"For taking me with you last night, and for not sending me back to Rodan." He watched me for a moment before responding sincerely.

"You're welcome."

"But, ummm…" I began shyly. "I can't help but wonder, I mean Rodan brought up a good poi-"

"Out with it."

"What exactly, do you plan on doing with me?" I blurted.

"What do you want me to do with you?" His voice was sultry as he stepped towards me.

I found my back against the wall. I silently scolded myself for allowing Silas to get me in such a submissive position. I had been in this position far too many times in recent events, even if one of them was in my dream.

I swallowed, trying to steel my nerves.

"I quite liked the idea of having a position of some sort, of using my advanced training." I resisted lifting my hands to trace the thin trail of hair that disappeared beneath his waist line.

He placed his hands on the wall to either side of me. Leaning in, he didn't touch me, but was close enough for me to feel the heat radiate from his body.

"You seemed pretty eager for option two last night."

Memories of his touch flooded me. I had caved yesterday, but I could be stronger. I didn't want him, not romantically and therefore, not sexually. But, he was an Alpha, my Alpha now. And unlike Rodan, he deserved his title and everything that came with it, which included the pack's respect and obedience.

"To be fair, I did think I was about to die. I wanted to experience a man and that would have been my last opportunity."

"And what do you want now? Do you still want to experience a man?"

My breathing became faster, trying to keep up with my speeding heart. I was at war with myself. I wouldn't hesitate to barter away my innocence if I felt like I had no other choice. But, if it were my decision, I had always imagined my first time being with my mate. I didn't want to sleep with Silas, not really.

The real problem was telling Silas I didn't want him. My body was betraying me, I knew it, and from the way his nostrils flared, he knew it too. I felt a longing in my core. A pull to have him pressed against me. I ached with the need to feel him, to have him feel me.

He wanted me, as clearly as the bulge in his pants. Should I deny him so that I can stick to my ideals? Would I be able to? Would I even want to?

"No. Well, I mean, yes, I do." I began, stumbling over my words. "But, I've really always pictured my mate being my first and before you say anything, I know I offered you my innocence, but I didn't offer to be your sex slave so I would really appreciate it if you found a different role for me, plus you chose to forgo the opportunity to relieve me of my virtue and I hardly think it's reasonable to expect a raincheck for such an offer."

I took a deep breath as I realized I had been ranting.

I was a little nervous about how Silas would react. Up until now, it hadn't really bothered me to question him, he seemed to find it more amusing than anything. But that was before. Now that he had refused to send me back to Rodan, he was MY Alpha. And even though my first interaction with him was a death threat, I respected him, more than I ever did Rodan. I didn't want to speak out of turn, I didn't know how he would respond to a member of his pack refusing him like that.

"Okay." He moved away from me, leaning on the counter behind him and crossing his arms.

I watched his shoulders ripple as his arms moved, his biceps bulging from their new bent position.

"Sorry, what?" I snapped my attention back to his face. "Okay? That's it?"

"Yes, okay. What did you expect?"

"I don't know. Anger at my defiance, a punishment of some kind for speaking out of line, or yelling something along the lines of 'how dare you disobey my order'"

"Have I given you an order? I'm pretty sure I only asked you a question. Why would I punish you for answering?"

"Because I don't want to have sex with you."

"There are lots of women who don't want to have sex with me." Silas chuckled. "There are lots who do. And even though it seems like you're right on the line between the two groups, I won't force you. Trust me, I have no need to force people into my bed."

I breathed a sigh of relief as he continued talking.

"Makara, most people tell me what they think I want to hear. It's exhausting trying to peal back the layers of what someone says to try and discover what they mean. I like that I haven't had to do that with you, even if it only started because of our deal. So I propose that we extend that arrangement. When we're alone, in this suite, I will always be truthful, so long as you hold yourself to the same standard. There will be no repercussions for your words, even if I don't like them. I know you're coming into the pack under unusual circumstances and I think this will make the transition of everything easier and make things more…interesting."

The way he said the last word sent the butterflies in my stomach into a flutter. I nodded my agreement to his offer, voicing it after an impatient look from Silas.

"Yes, I agree. Let's extend the arrangement."

"Very good." He took a step closer to me. "Then in the spirit of honesty, I must tell you that I want very much to sleep with you. I said I wouldn't force you, and I meant that. But if it were up to me, you would be warming my bed right now."

I felt the urge to reach out and touch him. I kept my hands firmly at my side, this time without the underlying feeling of fear.

"Now I think we both know that the only thing keeping your legs closed is your will power. Your body craves me. Am I right?"

"Yes." I admitted, the need for release building, making his statement all the more obvious.

"I will try to seduce you. You can refuse me, if that is your choice. Or you could tell me to stop if you don't think you're strong enough to resist."

"And what will you do with me in the meantime? Between seduction attempts, I mean." I questioned, hoping to distract myself from how easy it would be to say yes to him.

"I actually haven't decided that yet." He stepped back, moving towards the living room. I quickly followed him through the archway. "For now, Cade will show you around, he'll get an idea of your skills and whether you're trustworthy or not. You are, afterall, technically a stranger."

I considered arguing. I didn't need a babysitter. But once I thought about it, I realized it made sense. Silas had no real way of knowing if I had any hostilities toward his pack, except for my word and what good would that be if I was only here to cause problems.

"Wait for breakfast. They should be bringing something anytime now. Afterwards, stay here until Cade comes to get you."

With that, Silas disappeared into his bedroom.

I looked around the room, hoping to find something to occupy my time. I didn't have long to look as I heard a gentle knock on the door. I moved to open it but it swung into the room before I reached it.

A women stepped in carrying a tray with various dishes and plates. She was older than me but still relatively young. Almost immediately her head snapped up to me and what had been a friendly smile shifted to an angry scowl.

My ears rang as the tray clattered to the floor, distracting me as the woman pounced towards me, catching me off guard. I felt my lip split as her fist made contact, and the shooting pain in my head as it hit the floor.

Chapter Text

Instinctively, I raised my foot, catching her in the chest and using her own momentum to send her flying past me. I quickly got to my feet, knowing that I was vulnerable in my current position. I waited as she mirrored my stance.

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked her, trying to figure out why she would attack me.

"Fighting the bitch who hasn't figured out it's a bad idea to trespass."

She launched herself at me. Pivoting, I landed a punch to her ribs. Not at all deterred from her attack, I caught her elbow as she attempted to drive it into my stomach, and pulled her arm behind her back, knowing it was twisting painfully.

"I'm not trespassing. I'm a guest here." I felt the blood seeping from my split lip.

I pushed her forward, away from me. I didn't want to fight her, but I would, if she insisted.

She scoffed and darted towards me again, throwing jabs in quick succession, hoping to overwhelm me. I met them shot for shot, using my forearms to redirect her assault. I allowed her to land a punch to my stomach, tensing my abs to prepare for the impact and seizing the opportunity for a quick uppercut of my own.

She grunted as I made contact but didn't step back. She moved to strike me from the side. Grabbing both of her shoulders to fend off the attack, I hooked my foot around hers and jerked as hard as I could, sending her face first into the ground. I put all my weight on her back with my knees, keeping her arms pinned underneath her.

"If you're going to wrestle, I'd really prefer if you did it naked." Silas' voice interrupted our struggle.

I looked over to him as he walked towards us, now fully clothed.

"Makara, if you would be so kind as to let Emery up."

Cautiously, I raised out of my kneeling position and wiped the blood away from my lip.

"Emery. Do you know who this is?"

"Yes. Everybody knows Rune, and his family."

"Why would you attack her?"

"I thought she was here to hurt you."

"And why couldn't you defeat her?"

"She's an Alpha's daughter, sir. I didn't have much of a chance from the beginning."

"Exactly. Her werewolf blood is more potent than yours, even unshifted as she is." Her eyes shot to me as he spoke, as if she didn't believe what he said. "That, combined with years of advanced training has, no doubt, made her far more skilled than you. This is not an insult, Emery," he added as she cast her gaze to the floor. "You are very good at many things, just not fighting. I admire your initiative, but if Makara had been an intruder, she most certainly would have killed you, and then been free to carry out whatever nefarious plan she cooked up."

"Of course, Alpha. Next time I shall notify somebody who's more equipped for the challenge."

If he noticed the sarcasm in her tone, he didn't mention it.

"That's a good plan. Now clean this up." He motioned to the scattered breakfast and quickly slipped out the door without another word.

Emery began to pick up the fallen items, starting with the serving tray. Following behind her, I reached for a shallow bowl, gathering the fruit it had contained. I knew Silas' order hadn't been directed towards me, but I felt compelled to help. Emery had thought she was doing her duty by protecting her Alpha, it wasn't her fault she's not a match for me.

We worked in silence for a few moments.

"Hey!" I shouted as the bowl was slapped from my hands.

"I don't want your help."

"Why not?" I asked, genuinely confused.

"I don't care if you are an Alpha's daughter. You don't belong here. You think just because I can't beat you in a fight, that somehow means you're better than me. But there are other ways to win around here."

"What?" I asked, half to myself, confused by her hostility towards me. Sure, I had won our fight, but she was the one who attacked me. I didn't hold a grudge against her, I knew why she had done it, so why would she hold a grudge against me?

"Just don't get in my way."

"Right," I responded, as if I somehow knew what she was talking about.

"Let's go." Cade appeared in the doorway as he spoke. Once again, I cursed my unshifted senses as I hadn't noticed him walk up.

"Hi, Cade!" Emery stood, her excitement evident in her voice.

Now I understood.

"Emery." Cade nodded towards her. "Makara," He said, in less of a greeting than an impatient prompt.

Scrambling to my feet, I snatched a banana from the ground. I turned to see Emery's pointed glare as I met Cade at the door, flashing her a smug smile in response. If she was going to be petty, then so would I.

Not particularly interested in our display, Cade was already halfway down the hall by the time I closed the door.

Running, I finally caught up to him at the elevator.

"Cade, wait." He turned to look at me impatiently. "Silas said you were supposed to show me around. We just passed like three hallways and the only one we went down is the one for the elevator, which I already know. What kind of tour is this?"

Now that he was facing me, I could tell how much he looked like his father. He was definitely Silas' son. He had the same chiseled features and hard muscles bulging from underneath his shirt, but there was something softer about Cade's expression.

Sighing, he motioned behind me.

"Silas has half the floor, I'm sure he's given you a tour of his suite." I shook my head. "It doesn't matter, he can show you later. The other half of the floor is individual rooms for important guests."

"Important guests like other Alphas and vampire clan leaders who might be here for a committee meeting?" I knew that Silas was hosting the upcoming meeting, but I wasn't very keen to sleep a few doors down from Rodan. I hoped Cade was referring to some other important guests.

"Right," Cade said, dashing any hope that I had.

He pressed a button to call the elevator. It arrived almost immediately. I followed quickly behind Cade as he got on and selected a floor. With a gentle lurch, we started our descent.

"So what's on the other floors?" I questioned, trying to distract myself from sharing a floor with my brother.

"The first floor is filled mostly with conference rooms, except for a large ballroom where we host parties. The second floor has the kitchen, the gym and the pool."

"There's a pool?" I asked excitedly.

"Yes. Don't interrupt. There was a second ballroom in the basement that we converted to a training facility, and we use the courtyard for an outdoor sparring area as well. The rest of the basement is mechanical stuff, laundry and the like."

"And on all the floors in between?"

"Suites and rooms of varying sizes. Most of the unmated wolves stay in the hotel."

"What about the mated wolves?"

The elevator slowed and pinged, the doors sliding open. A quick look at the illuminated floor told me we were in the basement.

"The mated pairs usually build or inherit a house in the village just down the road. Their children stay with them until they shift and then they move into the hotel. The pups learn to be independent and are free of the watchful eyes of their parents as they try to find their mate."

As he spoke, I followed Cade down a hallway that lacked all of the elegant decor of the floors above.

"So you're not going to take me to any of these places, are you?"

"Just one."

Various grunts, yells and growls rang out as Cade swung open a rather plain looking door. The room was sectioned by padded mats that covered the floor, leaving space only for the walkways between sparring areas. The back wall had a row of punching bags and there was a fridge tucked away in the corner. If it was anything like the training room back at the estate, I knew it would contain only water.

He waved me into the room impatiently.

"That's great, Cade. I now know where everything is, while simultaneously not having a clue where anything is. Very informative tour."

"You're a big girl, Makara, I'm sure you can figure it out." Cade moved toward a group of male wolves near the back of the room. "My father asked me to bring you here to see how you fight, so why don't you go take out your pint sized aggression on a punching bag."

Stunned by his comment, I froze, looking over to the punching bags.

"I don't think so." Turning back to him, I realized he had kept walking. I jogged to catch up with him. "Cade, why can't I spar with you guys?"

"You want to spar with over two hundred pounds of werewolf muscle?"

"Yes."

"No."

"Why not?"

"What would I tell my father if you got hurt?"

"We're sparring, not fighting to the death. I'll be fine, I can handle myself."

"This isn't like fighting Emery, Makara."

I was surprised by his deduction. There was no way he had seen our fight.

"I know you fought her, and I know you won," he said in answer to my startled look. "You have a split lip, but she has a broken nose. And she was favoring her right arm, which I assume means you had it wrenched behind her back at some point, whereas you don't seem to have any other injuries."

"Well, there you go," I stated smugly.

"Emery is not a fighter. These wolves are the best we have, at least from our generation."

"I am an Alpha's daughter, the same as you are an Alpha's son."

He stared at me silently for a long moment.

"Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you." He continued towards the group of males. "Bash, you're sparring with Makara. Everyone else, pair off."

Bash pointed to himself, eyes wide. Cade ignored him and Bash made his way into the center of the mat, the rest of the group finding their own areas.

Realizing Cade wanted me to fight right away, I quickly peeled my banana and shoved a bite in my mouth, placing the rest on a nearby bench. I hadn't had a chance for breakfast, I was starving.

"No fair, she's trying to distract me by seductively eating a banana."

Bash laughed as I tried to ask him what was so seductive about it, the mass of banana distorting my words.

"Stances," Cade said, once again, ignoring Bash. I choked down the banana and joined Bash on the mat. I took up my stance. Across from me, Bash did the same. "Whenever you're ready."

We watched each other for a moment, and Bash let me make the first move. I lunged forward with a kick, aiming at the leg closest to me. He crouched down so my foot glanced harmlessly off his meaty thigh.

Attempting to keep my balance, I allowed myself to slide to the ground, bringing all my weight to my left leg and swinging my right leg around to sweep him.

Realizing what I was doing he stepped over me, but he was too slow. I caught one leg, bringing him down to one knee.

Twisting, he grabbed my arm as I threw a punch to his ribs, tossing me across the mat.

I ran at him again, this time aiming high as I launched the heel of my hand square into his chest. He grunted as I made contact, and stumbled back a few steps.

Before I could make another move, Cade interrupted us.

"Stop."

I returned to my side of the mat triumphantly. Sure, I had been tossed, but he hadn't managed to land any other hits.

"Bash, why are you holding back?"

I looked to Bash incredulously as he scratched at the back of his head.

"She's just so itty bitty."

"Hey!" I protested, but they paid no attention to me.

"She insisted. She knows what she got herself into."

"Does she though?" Bash started. "I mean, she made that decision having never seen us fight."

"I'll have you both know that I was at the top of my class, and I regularly sparred with my teachers," I challenged them, not appreciating the belittlement. "What makes you think I can't handle myself?"

"The fact that you say things like 'the top of my class.' This isn't a classroom, Makara," Cade shot back at me.

I was getting ready to give him a piece of my mind when Bash interrupted.

"Okay, listen, after we got back last night, Uncle Silas may have told us about Rune always babying you, and what happened with Rodan and the Alpha title."

I hadn't realized that Silas was his uncle, or that Silas had such a loose tongue. I hid my surprise well. There were more important things to discuss at the moment, I would get back to that.

Cade threw him a scolding look, but stayed silent during our exchange.

"So?"

"So, if he was babying you, why would he want you to train?"

"That's what's expected of an Alpha offspring. He was keeping up images."

"Right, but if it was just for the appearance, then why would he bother letting you get good? In fact, you said he didn't hesitate to declare Rodan the new Alpha after the challenge went sideways. What if he wanted Rodan to succeed him all along?"

I thought about what he was saying, trying to piece it all together.

"So you think that he would have stunted my training so that Rodan would win the challenge even if I hadn't forfeited? That they planned it this way from the beginning so that I would stay a helpless little girl, rather than leader of the pack."

I balled my hands into fists. Somehow, I knew he was right. My father never wanted me to lead. He had more control over my life than even I knew.

"I don't know for sure, but think about it, did you ever spar with Rodan?"

I shook my head, prying my jaw from the clenched position my anger had put it in.

"My father said it was unseemly for siblings to fight, even for training."

"That's weird, isn't it? I mean, Cade and I grew up together, I consider him my brother and we spar all the time. He doesn't want the two of you to fight, but he had no problem with Rodan challenging you for Alpha?"

"The only reason to keep you from sparring with Rodan," Cade offered. "Is to keep you from learning about the gap in your training."

"So that's why Silas wants to assess me?" I directed my attention to Cade

"Basically. Being the child of an Alpha, you will likely be an inherently better fighter than most others, he says it's a waste to let you believe you're at the top of your game when you're not."

"It's not like I'm completely useless in a fight." I was angry, but my pride was wounded as well.

"Bash wasn't supposed to say anything," Cade shot him another glare. "We weren't going to mention it until we knew for sure."

"Hit me." I turned back to Bash, lifting onto the balls of my feet and preparing for an attack.

"What? No!" Bash's eyes widened and he took a step away from me.

"I need to know for sure," I growled defiantly, determined to find out the truth. "Hit me!"

"But I don't want to break you."

"Dammit, Bash!" I yelled. "Fucking hit me!"

I ran at him, fists primed. I wasn't a doll who would just stand there while someone told me the thing I was most proud of was a lie. I was vaguely aware of Cade dismissing a crowd that had begun to gather.

Bash dodged as I swung at his face, my other hand aiming at his stomach. I made contact, but he didn't even flinch.

I struck at his shoulder, his ribs, and his face in quick succession, all dodged or blocked by Bash.

Frustrated, I stopped my onslaught.

"Please, Bash. I'm not asking you to beat the shit out of me, just fight back so I know where I stand. Maybe I'll only last thirty seconds, but at least I'll know."

Bash eyed me for a long, quiet moment.

"Dammit," he mumbled under his breath, preparing a fighting stance. "If I break anything important, I'm gonna kill both of you."

The following moments were a blur, the only evidence they were even real was the pain that I felt. I barely had time to block one strike as Bash hit me with another. He was quick and precise with his movements, and the few times that had failed him and I was somehow able to dodge or redirect him, he relied on his strength to overwhelm me.

We had three matches, and Bash had won all of them. I had managed to land a few hits but it was nothing compared to what I received.

I laid on the ground, willing my body to take a breath, Bash's face appearing above me.

"Oh my god, are you alright? I knew this was a bad idea."

My lungs finally gave in and filled with air.

"I'm fine! You just knocked the wind out of me, that's all." I squeeked between pants, purposefully leaving out the numerous bruises I knew would already be forming.

"You're bleeding."

"Well, yeah, but that wasn't you." I grimaced as I touched my lip.

A sharp pain shot through me as Bash reached forward to touch my forehead, his fingers covered in blood when he pulled them back.

"Oh." I held out my hand for some assistance standing. "That's new."

"Yeah, it's new." He pulled me to my feet. "And so is the bruise on your eye, the one on your calf, the ones I know you're hiding under your shirt and the friction burn on your shoulder. Can we be done now? Are you convinced?"

"Yes, I'm convinced." I admitted sullenly, my anger subdued by the beating I had taken. "My father and brother are even bigger assholes than I thought they were."

"Makara."

I turned my attention to Cade. I hadn't seen him walk away, but he was now digging in the fridge.

"Drink this." On reflex, I reached out to catch the bottle he threw, wincing as I irritated a bruise.

I tried to figure out what the liquid was as I walked over to him. It seemed to have the consistency of water, but was tinged a subtle purple color.

"What is it?" I asked, unable to identify the mixture.

"Water." He tossed another bottle over my head towards Bash, this one with clear liquid. "It's infused with nectar from the postium plant. It helps with healing."

"I'm a werewolf, Cade, I don't need help healing."

"This is better than our naturally enhanced healing. Besides, you're unshifted, it'll take you three days to heal all of these bruises. With this, even your worst bruise will be gone in a couple hours." He poked a particularly angry looking mark on my arm.

"Ow!" I yelped, slapping away his hand. "And why does everybody feel the need to bring up that I'm unshifted? It's really not that interesting of a detail, hardly worth mentioning."

I twisted off the cap of the bottle, taking a hesitant sniff before bringing it to my lips. The liquid was sweet, and more refreshing than I was expecting.

Cade watched as I quickly downed the bottle. I tried to hand it back to him, the strength in my hand failing. Dropping the bottle to the ground, my vision went dark.

Chapter Text

Slowly, I lifted my heavy eyelids, blinking until the blurry form in front of me sharpened.

"What the hell, Cade?" I pulled myself into a sitting position.

He looked at me questioningly before typing into his phone.

"You drugged me?" I glanced around the room, recognizing my surroundings as Silas' suite.

"No, I didn't."

"You gave me laced water that made me pass out and told me it was to help me heal."

"I gave you exactly what I said I gave you."

"Water with postium?"

"Yes."

"And postium is for healing?"

"Yes."

I stared at him, unconvinced.

"I may have forgotten to mention the side effects."

"Forgotten?"

"Yes."

"And what else did you forget to tell me?"

"Nothing. Just that you'll be very tired for the next twelve hours or so. Actually, make that ten, you've already been asleep for two."

"Two hours?" I stood from the couch, trying to stretch the exhaustion from my limbs. "Why would anyone use postium if you're basically a write off afterwards?"

"They don't."

"What?"

"Nobody uses it, not really. You're also going to have a wicked headache tomorrow."

"Why would you make me take it then?"

"My father said to evaluate you, not let you get your ass kicked. I don't think bringing you back nearly broken and bleeding would fit into whatever he has planned for you."

I was about to ask him what he meant by that when he spoke again.

"Plus it was just more convenient. I think after finding out how far behind you were in training you would have happily stayed there for the rest of the day and well into the night."

"So," I challenged him. "What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing's wrong with it. But, that's not what my dad asked me to do. I was supposed to figure out what level you're at and then bring you back."

"Why didn't you just tell me that?"

"Do you think you would have agreed to stop training the second you realized you kind of suck?"

"I don't suck." I whined, defending my pride.

He shrugged indifferently.

"Let me get this straight, you drugged me, and, I assume, carried me from the basement to the top floor to avoid an argument with me?"

"No, I already told you, I gave you a healing mixture for your injuries. You passing out, and subsequently being silent, was just a bonus."

My mouth hung agape, shocked by his audacity.

"I don't think you realize how annoying it is to speak to you," he added. "You're very stubborn."

There was a familiar, soft knock on the door before it swung into the room.

"Hi Cade, I got your order," Emery began cheerfully before turning her gaze to me. "You're still here?" She asked sourly.

"Why wouldn't I be?" I replied, matching her tone.

"I just heard some of the guys talking about the beating you took. I thought maybe you'd be dead."

"Nope. It turns out I can take a beating almost as well as you can." I retorted, shooting her a sardonic smile.

She glared at me for another moment, her eyes a barely concealed threat, before walking over to Cade, forgetting I even existed.

"I made the sandwich with extra mayo, Cade. I know how much you like it dripping." She purred, setting the tray down on the table in front of him.

"Great, thank you, Emery." Cade leaned forward in his seat, seemingly unphased by Emery's blatant flirting. He lifted the cloche, sliding the dish over to me before setting it back down with a clang.

Emery stood awkwardly, apparently unaware that her presence was no longer required.

"I'm not eating that," I said defiantly, looking from the sandwich to Cade. My stomach growled loudly in protest. "It's probably poisoned."

"Do whatever you want, it makes no difference to me."

Realizing she was no longer being acknowledged, Emery quietly left the room.

"That girl likes you, you know."

"No, she doesn't." He stood, moving towards me.

"Hi, Cade," I used my most mocking tone, laced with us much sexual undertone as I could muster. "I made the sandwich with extra mayo." I moved closer to him, running my finger down his chest. I noticed the hard muscles underneath his shirt, but ignored them. "I know how much you like it…dripping." I dragged the word out, fighting back a smile. Failing, I gave up my performance. "No, you're totally right, she definitely hates you."

"She doesn't like me, she likes the idea of me. She wants power and she thinks I can give her that."

"Couldn't you?"

"Yes, if I wanted to." He reached down to pick up the sandwich.

"But, you don't?"

"No." He took a bite, proving the sandwich was just a sandwich. "But, I do love extra mayo." He hummed, letting the sandwich flop back on the plate. Turning on his heels, he strode towards the door. "Wipe that blood off your face, it looks stupid without a wound," he commented, without looking back at me, before disappearing out the door.

I raised my hand to finger the injuries on my face, only to find dried blood caked over smooth skin. Picking up the cloche, I examined my reflection. I scratched away at the only evidence I had been in a fight, noticing that there was also no sign of a bruise around my eye. Setting the cloche back down hurriedly, I inspected the rest of my body. Every bruise, every cut, every mark, was gone.

I guess Cade was right about the postium.

Satisfied that I had removed all the crimson flakes from my face, I turned my attention to the sandwich on the table. Picking it up, I scrutinized it, looking for anything suspicious. Not finding anything, I decided just to eat it, my stomach urging me forward. Cade had taken a bite, so it must be fine.

I devoured the sandwich, rolling my eyes as mayo flooded my mouth with each bite. Leaving only crumbs on the plate, I looked around for something to do. I spotted my phone as it vibrated on the table.

I expected the message to be from Rodan, so I was surprised when I didn't recognize the number. Curiously, I read the message.

"Hey, it's Bash. I'm sorry about hurting you. Next time I see you, I'll let you punch me in the face."

I chuckled at his concern and typed back a reply.

"Don't worry about it. Good as new." I attached two pictures. One of my forehead, where he had made me bleed, and another of my shoulder that was now free of a particularly angry friction burn.

He sent back a thumbs up.

I set my phone back on the table, looking for the next thing to remedy my quickly developed boredom. I walked around the room, trying to occupy myself by inspecting the artwork on the walls.

Wandering down a hallway that was inconspicuous from most areas of the living room, I debated whether giving myself a tour of Silas' apartment would be considered rude.

I got to the end of the hallway, faced with large, ornately decorated, double doors. They looked heavy, but more importantly, they were closed. Having no idea what was behind them, my curiosity threatened to overtake me.

Worming my self control back into place, I turned away, deciding there might be a reason for the doors to be closed. I would ask Silas to show me later.

As I emerged back into the living room, I realized Silas' bedroom door had been left open. Intrigued, I leaned into the room slowly, intending to sneak a peek before shutting the door.

A book on his nightstand caught my attention. Excitedly, I rushed into the room, grasping the familiar text. I noticed another book underneath it, but not recognizing the symbol on the front, quickly disregarded it.

I hurriedly opened the book, gasping as two pages fell out and fluttered to the floor. I picked them up, worried that I had damaged the book in my haste. I breathed a sigh of relief as a quick once over of the pages revealed they were not part of the binding, and had merely been tucked inside the cover.

Inspecting the first page more closely, I realized it was a list of names.

"…Dodge...Talismay…" I mumbled to myself as I read the last two names out loud. I didn't recognize any of them, which made sense, considering it was likely these were wolves from Silas' pack. There was no heading for the list, and the reverse side was blank. Deciding this information was of little value to me, I tucked it back into place in the front cover.

The second page had a poem that meant about as little to me as the list had. I had never been particularly interested in poetry, but I read it slowly in my head anyway.

'Body, mind and soul,
And blood used to bind,
Sacrifice through ash and coal,
Save humankind,

One year one hundred makes
And untold screams and pain
Patiently it sits and waits
For unmatched strength and gains

Mega pool and fountain,
Sit empty dry as bone
First or last to mount in
And bathe to atone'

Concluding that that had, in fact, been a waste of my time, I placed it with the first page and began flipping through the book. I ran my fingers over the rough paper, feeling the texture of the slightly raised ink as I read.

"What are you doing?" I heard Silas' voice from behind me.

Startled, I launched the book in the air. It landed with a soft thud, its pages sprawled open. I hurried to pick it up, sighing as the two loose pages fell out once again. Embarrassed, I reached for those as well, inserting them back into the book and closing it tightly, placing it back on his nightstand.

He watched me expectantly as I turned to face him.

"Nothing," I answered sheepishly.

"Nothing? It looks like you snuck into my room to read that book, there." He motioned to the nightstand with a subtle thrust of his chin.

"Well, you did leave your door wide open, so there wasn't much sneaking involved, but-"

"But you WERE reading that book."

I looked from Silas, to the book, and back again, unsure of how he would react.

"I might have been, yes." His harsh stare bore into me, willing me to provide him with more details. "I noticed your door was open and I came over to close it when I saw the book. Clearly, I wasn't really thinking when I ran inside, but I just had to hold it."

"Why? What's so important about this book that you had to hold it."

"Nothing, to anyone else I suppose, but to me…I just love these stories. I used to read them all the time before Rodan wrecked my copy."

He took a step towards me.

"I know I shouldn't have come into your roo-"

"Nonsense," he interrupted me, his voice developing a dangerously sexy tone. "You're right where you should be."

He smirked as heat inflamed my cheeks and I worked not to divert my eyes.

"Tell me about the stories."

He looked utterly pleased with himself as my eyes widened in surprise. I had been expecting something more along the lines of a barrage of advances and sexual innuendos. He seemed to enjoy the game of catching me off guard.

"You have a copy of the book on your nightstand, surely you've read them." I managed to pull the words through my vocal chords.

"I have. But, I want to hear you tell them."

He seated himself on the bed, which gave him a much less intimidating appearance as, in my standing position, I was now a little bit taller than him.

"Well," I began timidly. "The stories tell of our history, where the werewolves came from."

"Go on," he encouraged.

"There were wolves once, of their own flesh and blood, separate from people." I gained confidence as I spoke, allowing the familiar stories from my childhood to bolster my narrative. "But, there was war, fighting over territory and power. The people outnumbered them, but the wolves were strong and proud, they would not give up. There was brutal violence between them, humans shredded by teeth and claws, wolves skinned and displayed."

It was easy to lose myself in the stories. I almost didn't notice Silas' hand reach up to my leg, tracing delicate circles on the side of my knee.

"Eventually the wolves' low numbers proved to be their achilles heel. The humans hunted them to extinction, celebrating that their biggest enemy was no more. The Moon goddess, who cared for the wolves, was enraged by the destruction of her children, and vowed that she would not let them be wiped out.

"She could not create flesh from nothing, and she refused to take another's life to reshape their body. She forced cooperation on the humans, the ones who had hunted and killed, placing a wolf soul and mind to share in their flesh."

I was mildly aware of Silas' attentions moving to the back of my leg.

"For years, the wolves and humans fought against the pairing, for control of the body, for control of the mind. Many went insane, unable to deal with the constant struggle. Some were able to set aside their hatred in order to survive. They worked out their issues, creating a symbiotic relationship. The wolves developed a higher intelligence, far past the primal instincts of their parents, that allowed them to communicate in our language. And the humans gained enhanced senses, agility and healing, and improved physically overall.

"It didn't take them long to discover that, together, they were more powerful than the humans who were not paired, the ones who had not participated in the original war. It was easy then, to demonstrate their prowess and superiority over these humans, and easier still to cut down anyone who rebelled. These new werewolves would slash and bite any who stepped out of line, and often hunted the humans for sport."

He squeezed my leg, pulling me closer towards him. I stepped forward obediently, too distracted by my story and the hypnotic movements of his hand to resist.

"It was then the Moon goddess discovered the role her children had played in their own demise. Their unrestrained blood lust bringing on their destruction as much as that of the humans. Angered by their actions, she punished the wolves, banishing the use of their flesh as a tool to control others. No longer could werewolves shift from one body to another. They would be bound in furless skin, still clinging to the mind of their human for life. They would see everything through the eyes of their host, but never experience it for themselves, until their misdeeds were paid for."

A quiet growl emanated from Silas as I realized both his hands were on my hips. Without me noticing, he had managed to pull me so I was standing between his legs, my hands resting on his shoulders, fiddling with the collar of his shirt.

He ran his hands down my legs and back up again. I swallowed hard and kept my eyes trained on his, trying to avoid giving him any kind of response. I shifted my weight from one foot, to the other, the wetness between my legs suddenly becoming obvious. He gave me a knowing smirk.

"Were you even listening?" I questioned, taking a small step out of his embrace.

"Of course I was. But you didn't make it very easy, bombarding me with your alluring scent."

"The story is not suggestive in any way," I began, more confidently than I felt. "If you had kept your hands off me, that wouldn't have happened."

"Ahh, but there in lies the problem in keeping my hands off of you."

That he wanted me was no secret, but my stomach gave an excited lurch anyway. Once again, my body looking for the exact opposite of what I wanted.

"But it is nice to know I can elicit such a reaction from you." He said when I remained silent.

"You already knew you could."

"That I could what?" I gave him an annoyed look, knowing he was perfectly aware of what I meant. He stood, catching me in his arms before I could step back. "Make you yearn for my hands on your body?" He leaned in, his warm breath on my neck as he spoke. "That I could make you drip, and ache for release?"

He held me there for a moment, lips barely an inch from my neck, never touching. I swallowed, searching for words, knowing he was waiting for an answer.

"Yes." I finally whispered, refusing to break our arrangement by lying.

"I guess I did know that. But it's fun to hear you say it."

I scowled at him, not having nearly as much fun as he seemed to be. I struggled to rein in my unruly body, puzzled by the intensity of my urges. I didn't want him, so why did it feel like I needed him so badly?

"I can help you with that, you know." I gasped as his lips grazed the sensitive area below my ear, forcing me to picture exactly how he could help. "I know you want it, I can smell it." He pulled me tighter to him. "All you have to do is say yes, and I'll make you experience pleasures that you've only dreamed of. Do you want me to take care of you?"

I fought for control over my body, trying to stamp down every impulse pressing me to assent. He had warned me he would try this, I should have been more prepared. I could tell him to stop trying, but that would only prove I'm not able to resist him, that he could control me in that way. I spent my entire life being controlled by others. It was my decision who I slept with, and when I slept with them, I wouldn't let anyone take that away.

"No, thank you." My response was barely audible, but there was no mistake that Silas had heard it. "I've got it under control."

He pulled back to look at me, his mouth turning up in a predatory smile.

Chapter Text

I stood silently as Silas eyed me, not sure exactly what to expect. If he was true to his word he would back off.

"Very well," he said, his tone deceptively casual. He raised his hands, freeing me from their grasp. "May I ask then, that you provide a distraction to my current... situation. As you can see there are certain parts of my anatomy that were somewhat invested in a different response."

I didn't have to look to know what appendage he was referring to. I had felt its hard length pressed against me.

"What kind of distraction?" I asked cautiously, knowing better than to agree to something without all the information.

"You can relax," he began, noticing my hesitation. "I simply mean a conversation."

"Okay. What do you want to talk about?"

"Perhaps we could go elsewhere for this discussion? My experiences have given me certain expectations of women in my bedroom and where their clothes should be. Imagining yours in a pile on the floor is not exactly conducive to our goal."

His eyesight moved down my body and I knew he was picturing me naked.

"A tour then?" I questioned, seizing an opportunity to look behind those beautiful double doors.

"A tour? Didn't Cade already give you one?"

"He didn't show me anything in the suite." I left out that he hadn't really shown me anything at all.

"Usually, the fun part of a tour is ending up in the bedroom."

"But that's hardly conducive to our goal." I threw back at him.

He chuckled.

"Right." He motioned to a door in the far corner of the room. "Through there is my bathroom, inside there's another door that leads to my closet." He developed a sultry tone. "Want to see?"

"Got any juicy secrets in there?" I questioned, mostly joking.

"I've been around a while, I assure you I have better hiding places for my secrets than my closet."

"Then no." I was nosey, but I had no interest in seeing rows of clothes and drawers filled with nothing but socks and underwear.

"Are you sure? It's quite cozy in there."

I ignored him, moving backwards out of the room, hoping he would follow me. He took a step forward. I excitedly ran down the hall to the beautiful wooden doors I so badly wanted to open.

His laughter reverberated off the walls.

"I see you had a specific intention in mind when you suggested the tour."

He appeared from around the corner and I smiled at him innocently, stepping aside to allow him access to the doors.

He wasted no time in opening them, with a quick click of the latch he pulled the heavy doors towards him and swung them aside.

I looked at him questioningly, waiting for permission.

"Well, go on then."

I bounded inside the room.

The first thing I noticed was the walls, lined floor to ceiling with row after row of books. Throughout the middle of the room stood shelves, hand carved with abstract details. I ran my hand over the swirling decoration, and noticed that each row was identified by a letter engraved on a golden placard.

"It's beautiful." I mumbled half to myself.

"This is just my private collection. It's nothing compared to the main library downstairs."

"The main library?"

"On the first floor. Did Cade not show you?"

"Uh, no. He must have missed that." I rolled my eyes. Stupid Cade and his stupid excuse for a tour.

"I'm sure he'll be happy to show you after your training tomorrow."

"What?" I turned to face him. He had settled into a large armchair, a small table to his left supported a lamp for reading, and a large table in front of him supported his feet. "I'm training tomorrow?"

"Of course. Are you surprised?"

"Well, yeah. I understand that you would want to get an idea of my skill level, but I didn't think you would want me to train right away. At least not until you've decided I'm trustworthy."

"I've already decided you're trustworthy."

"Really? I've only been here a day. Just this morning you said Cade had to test if I was trustworthy since I'm technically a stranger."

"I changed my mind. Call it intuition. Your father and brother didn't do you any favors by neglecting your training, I plan to rectify that. Cade will train you, starting tomorrow morning."

"Cade will? Like him personally?"

"Is there a problem with that?"

"I just didn't think he seemed very interested in training me."

"Well, I see big things for you in this pack and I want you trained by the best."

My curiosity flared. I desperately wanted to know what he had planned for me, but he didn't slow down for me to be able to ask him.

"Cade is the best, and not just because he's my son, therefore, he will train you. His opinion on the topic, whatever that may be, matters very little to me."

It was a little strange that Silas wouldn't care about Cade's thoughts, but I knew that sometimes Alphas had to make unpopular decisions.

"You would train your rival's daughter? I guess the fact that our packs are basically at war matters very little to you as well?"

"We have had peace for many years."

"Yeah, on paper, with the treaty. But violence has always been just a sliver away. I mean, just a few hours ago you tried to kill me."

"It was definitely more than a few hours ago. I'd say at least twelve, although it's not like I've kept a timer. Besides, I didn't attempt anything, merely threatened."

I glared at him, silently asking what the difference was, but he ignored me.

"And with Rune dead, it's not like he presents a challenge to me, so I hardly think he deserves to be called my rival, not anymore."

"And Rodan?" I asked before I could stop myself. Images from my dream flashed in my mind and I instinctively squeezed my legs together.

"Rodan?" He chuckled from deep in his chest. I looked to find his nostrils flared in recognition and his lips spread wide in a smile. "Is he what all the questions are about? You'd rather be there, with him? You'd rather have him rub his cock all over you? Picture it sliding inside you? Imagine his hands all over your body and get yourself off to the thought? Maybe if you go back he'll let you sit on his-"

"No." I interrupted, annoyed at how his words had increased my heart rate and sped my breathing. "I don't want that, I-"

"But you do want him, don't you? Not here," he continued, pointing to his head. "But everywhere else."

I swallowed. I wanted to deny it.

"Come on, Makara, we have a deal. No lies."

"Why is it so important for you to hear me say it?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about. I've merely asked you a question and expect an honest answer, per our arrangement." He smiled, betraying his words that he wasn't getting any enjoyment out of my discomfort.

"Yes." I finally managed.

He screwed up his face in confusion.

"Hmm, I'm sorry, we've talked about a number of things today, what is it, exactly, you're saying yes to?"

I glared at him, resolving to find some way to get him back for putting me through this.

"Yes, the thought of…" I paused, gritting my teeth, unable to make myself say the words.

"Fucking your brother?" Silas offered with a smile.

I gave him a subtle nod, annoyed at his contribution, but grateful that I didn't have to say it myself.

"…Arouses me." I finished, opting not to start the sentence over. "But only physically, and I have no control over what my body reacts to."

A satisfied growl rolled through him.

"Yes, I thought as much. And while I have to say that the fact is certainly...interesting," he shifted in his seat, making his erection even more obvious as it strained against the fabric of his pants. "I would be jealous if I didn't think you felt the same way about me."

"I thought the whole point of this conversation was to distract you from things that excite you after you failed to seduce me. How exactly are we achieving that?" I attempted to change the conversation. I hadn't wanted to admit my sexual feelings toward Rodan to myself, much less to Silas. In an attempt to wound his pride, I brought up the fact that he hadn't been able to get me into bed, hoping that would soften him, both figuratively and literally.

Unexpectedly, he laughed. I had hoped to throw him off balance but he was simply amused.

"Very well, you have a point. What would you prefer to discuss?" He asked, his laughter dying in his throat.

"Literally anything else."

"Alright. Shall we discuss the Moon goddess legend?"

"What about it?"

"What is your opinion of it?"

"My opinion?" I looked at him quizzically. "I love it. It reminds me of my childhood, before I knew or cared about what little control I had. Other than that, it's just a legend."

"Just a legend? You don't believe it's true?"

"I don't know. I guess it could be. It happened seventeen hundred years ago, so nobody really knows for sure." I leaned back in my chair, feeling more at ease with the current topic.

"They say all legends have a foundation of truth."

"But everything gets distorted over time."

"If it's false, why would someone go through the trouble of creating it?"

"We all want to know where we come from and it's a neat and clean way to explain why we can't shift." I paused as a yawn overtook me. "More likely that we just evolved past the need for our wolf forms."

"And if it's true? Do you think the curse is justified?"

"Yes, I think it's justified. If the legend is true, then we're not cursed, we're being punished. To receive a penalty so severe, as a species we must have done something to deserve it and we're at the mercy of the Moon goddess to decide if we've paid our dues." I let my head fall against the soft back of the chair, suddenly finding it difficult to hold its weight.

"You wouldn't consider it a curse?"

"Mm-mm, Punishment." I mumbled my disagreement as my eyes fluttered shut. My breathing slowed as I became less aware of my surroundings. I barely heard Silas as he spoke.

"One day when you meet your wolf and she's cooped up in your head, unable to run free as a wolf should," his voice echoed in my ears, a hazy, dreamy cloud settling over his words as I fell asleep. "You ask her if SHE thinks it's a curse."

Darkness surrounded me. Colorful clouds drifted in the distance, dancing and mingling, creating new colors. I watched, entranced by the movement.

The edges of the clouds became sharper, cleaner and more solid. I could easily see where one ended and another began, even as it was impossible to decipher what color or shape I was looking at.

I felt something at my feet and I looked down to find I was standing on grass, a cool breeze I hadn't noticed earlier gently pulling at my hair. Raising my head, I no longer saw the crushing confinement of the dark, but the vast openness of the sky, a shade of blue that I had never seen before.

Movement caught my eye and I turned. A wolf walked forward proudly, her fur matted with blood. Instinctively, I knew it was hers, but could see no wound. Stepping towards her, my head exploded in blinding pain. I blinked against the sudden agony, the edges of my vision going dark.

Almost as quickly at it appeared, the pain receded, and my vision cleared. The wolf stood, staring back at me, her pristine white fur showing no signs of the gore I had witnessed a moment ago.

I held her gaze for what felt like an eternity, staying decidedly still for fear of reigniting the fire in my head. Her eyeline shifted as she looked passed me, her head moving slightly with the action.

Without thinking, I turned to see what she was looking at. I gasped as the tall shelves of Silas' library towered over me, twice the height that they should have been and oddly cartoonish. Looking back to the wolf, I was faced only with the other, proportionately accurate, side of the library. I looked around at the rows of books, trying to puzzle out where the wolf had gone, or if she had even been there at all.

Strong hands on my hips and a hard body pressed against my back pulled me from my ponderment. He encouraged me to turn in his embrace, tucking his face into my neck as I did. My eyes fell closed as he nipped at my sensitive skin, a warmth spreading over me as his hands wandered over my naked back.

Noticing I was nude, I briefly wondered where my clothes were, the cool air now extremely obvious on my heated flesh.

He trailed kisses down my jawline, not bothering to pause before claiming my lips with his. I immediately opened my mouth to allow him access, enjoying the taste of him as I fingered lines of defined muscles on his chest.

I groaned in protest as he broke the kiss and pulled away. He smiled and I was surprised to see Cade looking back at me. I blinked. No, it was Silas standing there.

My eyes flickered around the room, waiting for my surroundings to change again, but nothing happened. My gaze settled back on the man before me.

He raised his hands, caressing the skin at my collar bone. He traced a path over my breast, stopping to tease and pinch at my nipple. Slowly, he stepped around me, pivoting so he was always facing me. I dropped my hands to my sides, unsure of what else to do with them and too distracted to find an alternative.

He stood to my right, his hands never leaving my body as he eyed me hungrily, enjoying my naked form from a new angle. He pressed himself against me and I was suddenly more disappointed than I cared to admit that his cock was hidden behind a pair of boxer shorts, as my hand brushed against the thin fabric.

His fingers teased the skin of my stomach as his hand dropped lower, leaving goosebumps in its wake. My hips rocked forward of their own volition, desperately seeking contact. A low, satisfied growl rumbled through his chest as he snaked his hand between my legs.

I gasped as he provided the friction I was looking for. He wrapped his other arm around my back to support my weight as my knees weakened, his ministrations having an immediate effect.

He expertly worked circles around my clit, seemingly aware of exactly where I needed to be touched. A moan escaped my throat, despite my attempts to strangle it.

As though I were a toy being posed, he turned me to the left, keeping his hand in place and thrusting his hips into my ass as he tucked me against him.

My head grew clouded as I got closer to my orgasm, my body incapable, or unwilling to concentrate on anything other than my impending release.

A now constant stream of whimpers and moans filled the air and he redoubled his efforts, increasing his speed and pressure.

My muscles tensed for one gloriously torturous moment. One moment where I was guaranteed to cum, but had not yet acheived it.

I clung to his arm as the pleasure washed over me like a wave, grateful that I could maintain my grasp on something as my body spasmed out of my control. If anything other than his fingers between my legs existed at that moment, I was not aware of it.

He worked me for another few seconds, making sure I got everything I needed.

As my orgasm started to fade, so did Silas. He pressed a gentle kiss to the back of my neck as his hands and hard muscles slowly disappeared, leaving me alone in darkness.

Sighing, I kicked off the blanket, seeking the cool air
as the remnants of pleasure ran through me. I sat up, breathing hard in frustrated satisfaction.

Six nights, I had been here. And five of them were plagued with dreams much the same as this one. My only truly empty sleep was my first full night, the postium having succeeded in giving me a restful slumber. I had fallen asleep in the chair in the library and Silas had carried me to bed. Or so he told me.

Every other night had been filled with torturous pleasures. Tonight was Cade's first appearance, and I had never seen the wolf before either. It was usually Silas or Rodan, sometimes both, with their hands all over me. I was always naked, but I could never remember how I got that way. And I was always powerless to stop them, not that I ever wanted to in the middle of the dream. It were as though the only thing that existed was the pleasure, and it didn't matter where that came from.

This led to frustrated mornings. I had mostly been able to ignore my desires during the day, not allowing my impulses to control where my thoughts wandered, only to have my subconscious mind betray me while I slept. The worst part was that I enjoyed every second of it.

Forcing myself out of bed, and without letting myself take another moment to think about my dream, I grabbed a change of clothes and a towel, aiming for a shower as I left my room.

Silas' bare shoulders over the back of the couch had become a regular sight, almost expected every morning.

"Morning, Makara," Silas' unusually strained voice greeted me.

"Morning," I mumbled quietly as I quickly walked past the couch. I knew he was looking at me, but I kept my back to him as I moved towards the bathroom.

"It's okay, keep going, you're doing great."

Confused by his nearly whispered words, I turned to face him.

Instantly, my eyes were drawn down. His pants, pulled down to just below his hips, compelling me to stare as a head bobbed in his lap. Every retreat of her mouth revealed his long shaft that I had often felt pressed against me, but had never seen, only to disappear again as she plunged forward, her swinging hair hiding her face.

I knew he had brought someone home with him last night. The thought didn't particularly bother me, but I hadn't expected a front row seat to their escapades. Swallowing, I pulled the slack from my jaw, hoping only a few seconds had passed instead of the eternity it felt like.

"Really, Silas? You have to do that here?" I asked him, finding him smiling back at me.

There was a slight slurping noise and a disappointed grunt as the women pulled herself off of Silas, wiping away a string of spittle.

"He is the Alpha. He can do whatever he wants, wherever he wants." I was surprised to see Emery as she ran her hand through her hair, revealing her face. But, Cade's words came back to me and I realized it made perfect sense. Cade was not interested in her quest for power so she went right to the source.

I rolled my eyes at her defiant tone. She spoke as though she were somehow superior to me as she sat, perched on her knees at Silas' feet. I stifled a chuckle at the contrast.

"Thank you, Emery," Silas began. "But, I will take it from here. Afterall, I believe you were quite busy." He gave a gentle thrust of his hips, an encouragement to continue her previous attention.

She shot me a smug smile, seemingly believing that she had won some sort of contest. She turned, happily indulging his request.

"She's right, though. This is my home, I can do this, or more, wherever I'd like."

"Of course," I searched the room for something to fix my eyes on, not liking the options in front of me. "I'm just curious what's so wrong with your bedroom that you would choose to do that here."

"Nothing. I was just having my morning coffee and…something…came over me." I looked to him as he lingered on the word, bestowing it with a deeper meaning. His gaze travelled down my body and he unashamedly licked his lips. My face flushed as I knew he must have heard, or smelled my climax. "Will you judge me for seeking release when you have obviously already done so?"

"No," I replied meekly, hoping he wouldn't ask for more details.

"Good. Men have needs. And since you steadfastly refuse to see to them…" he motioned to Emery instead of finishing his sentence. "I am, however, still willing to assist you, if you'd like."

I clenched my legs together, remembering how it would feel to have him help from my dream. I shook my head, turning towards the bathroom, hoping to escape the situation.

"Women have needs too," he called after me, chuckling, as I closed the bathroom door.

I didn't hesitate to strip off my clothes and turn on the shower. Tilting my head back, I let the water soak into my hair and flow down my back in rivulets. The hypnotic sound of the water lulled me into a calm, my thoughts beginning to wander freely.

Instantly, my mind was back in the living room. Before I could decide against it, I was picturing what it would feel like to take him in my mouth, what he would taste like. I was quick to admonish myself, I couldn't let myself think about Silas that way.

As a treacherous loophole, my brain exchanged father for son. I was not as quick to shake this thought away. Although he had been very difficult to work with so far, and was basically an asshole in all of our interactions, Cade was, afterall, my age, incredibly physically attractive and most importantly, had not made it a personal goal to hit on me every moment we were together. Additionally, although I could easily recognize his virility, I had no unrelenting urge to open my legs for him, making the danger of me actually doing so very low.

I allowed myself to indulge in the thoughts, feeling safe and secure in my choice of subjects. Picturing Cade standing above me, I brought my hand between my legs as the heat began to build. I tried to imagine what sounds, what faces he would make, as I teased myself. Personal experience with my actions brought me to the edge very quickly. My muscles tensed and I rocked my hips into my hand as my body convulsed in pleasure. It was a wave of heat that started in my core and reached from the ends of my toes to the tips of my fingers.

Satisfied, I quickly finished my shower. I pulled on my fresh clothes, a form fitting pair of shorts and a casual t-shirt, perfect for training. Blow drying my hair, I pinned it up with a butterfly clip before grabbing my old clothes and wet towel and heading for my room.

As I left the bathroom I saw Silas still on the couch, his pants thankfully back in place and fastened. He sipped at a coffee, reading his customary file. Emery sat quietly next to him on the couch.

Noticing me as I crossed the living room, she scooched in closer to him, trying to get his attention.

I rolled my eyes and made quick work of the items in my hands, throwing my clothes in a heap on my floor and hanging the wet towel on the back of my door.

As I moved back through the living room I could see Emery press herself against Silas, teasing the skin at his neck, trying to get a reaction. She glanced at me as I walked by, redoubling her efforts to get Silas to acknowledge her. I knew she wanted to keep his attentions off me, likely jealous he had basically offered to make me cum as she was performing her services.

Sliding my feet into my shoes, I heard her call his name quietly. He gave her an annoyed grunt in response, not looking up from the file in his hand.

A devious, petty smile crept onto my face as a thought occurred to me. Bending over, making sure Silas would have a good view, I pulled one of my shoe laces loose and feigned tightening it, before starting to tie it back up.

I looked over to the couch, pleased to see they were both already looking my direction. Silas staring intently at my ass, high in the air, and Emery staring daggers between Silas and me.

"Silas?"

His eyes flicked over to my face as I spoke.

"Yes?" Emery's face tightened in a frown as he responded, and he promptly returned his gaze to my upturned behind.

"I just wanted to remind you that I had that book from your library in my bedroom, in case you need it." I pulled the bow on my lace tight and straightened myself out.

Silas watched me for a moment before giving me a subtle nod, returning to pouring over his file. Emery attempted to drive death straight through me with naught but her eyes. I smiled at her, blowing her a malevolent kiss before turning and walking out the door.

Chapter Text

I watched the illuminated number count down the floors as I rode the elevator to the basement.

I had met Cade every morning since I got here for training. I enjoyed it immensely, although I could have done with a more enthusiastic instructor. Cade made it seem as though the whole thing was nothing but an inconvenience to him. But, it made me feel like I was taking some control back in my life, not allowing my skills to remain where my father and brother preferred them, so I tolerated him.

Stepping out of the elevator, I quickly walked down the hallway and threw open the doors to the training room. Noticing Cade immediately, I moved to our usual sparring mat where he and Bash were already grappling.

They didn't seem to notice me as I walked up beside them. Cade turned, flipping Bash over his shoulder. The movement revealed a prominent scar running diagonally across the otherwise flawless flesh of his bare back. I hadn't thought of it before, but this was the first time I had seen Cade without a shirt, except of course for the brief appearance he had made in my dream, and then again in my thoughts during my shower, it had not been his back I was interested in. I blushed as I remembered my earlier actions.

Sitting on the ground, I stretched out my legs, loosening my muscles for my training. I watched them as they began a new match, noticing how Bash kept his body low, hoping to avoid being thrown over Cade's shoulder again.

A cheery face appeared beside me and I jumped in surprise.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." The face spoke sweetly. "You must be Makara."

"Um, yes," I replied, reaching out to shake her offered hand.

"I'm Tal, Bash's mate. And this," she moved her hands to her slightly rounded belly. "Is our little pup."

"Oh wow, congratulations. Bash didn't ment-"

"I know," She interrupted, her excitement spilling into her actions. "We decided not to announce it until we told my parents. But I just got back, so now we're telling everyone!"

"Oh right. Bash did say you were away."

"Yeah, just in Amrita's territory. It's beautiful there. Have you ever been?"

"Amrita? No, I haven't. Honestly, I don't know that much about her. Just that she keeps herself and her pack pretty secluded."

"Oh she does, but that's where I'm from and my parents still live there. It's a few hours away but Henry was nice enough to offer to drive me. Do you know Henry?"

I smiled as her contagious energy drew me in. Tal seemed so friendly and full of life, but I couldn't help but think that after a conversation with her, one might feel exhausted as she jumped from subject to subject.

"Yes, I know Henry." I thought of the old man who drove the night Silas came to kill me. He was always ready with a wave and a friendly smile. I had made a note to always reciprocate as it seemed most others didn't notice the frail human.

"He's just the sweetest. He tells me I remind him of his daughter."

It occurred to me that I had not been paying attention to the sparring match when Bash came walking up to us.

"Hi Makara, I see you've met Tal." He laughed as his mate flung herself into his sweaty arms. "I'd love to stay and chat, but there's something, or rather, someone, I'd love to do more, so, bye." I chuckled as he turned to usher Tal out of the training room.

"Oh, wait. Makara, are you coming to our party tomorrow?" Bash pouted as Tal turned back around.

"Party?"

"You didn't invite her?" She gave Bash a playful slap to his arm.

"I kind of assumed Cade did. They've been spending so much time together."

"I don't exactly have a choice in that," Cade grumbled.

"I've been planning it for weeks," Tal said, decidedly ignoring Cade's comment. "We're going to make the big announcement and there will be lots of food and games."

"Sure. That sounds like fun."

"Great! Get the details from Cade." She called out behind her as Bash practically carried her out of the room.

"So who won?"

"Weren't you watching?" He asked in a tone that told me he already knew the answer.

"No, I was talking to Tal."

"And you wonder why your skills are so subpar." He didn't answer my question.

I had gotten used to his casual insults over time, so I ignored him as he padded over to the bench. Picking up a bottle of water, his back was to me and I could see the angry mark in more detail. The raised white line ran from his left shoulder blade to just above his right hip, splitting his back into two, almost perfect halves.

He lifted the water bottle to his mouth, taking a long swig of the refreshing liquid. I watched in fascination as his muscles pulled at the skin on his back, tightening with his movements.

"Stop."

I jumped, surprised by the sudden noise of Cade's voice cutting through the silence. I felt embarrassment paint my face as I realized I had been too focused on his back to notice him looking at me. The single word needed no further explanation as his tone told me I had been caught.

"Stop?" I asked, playing innocent, trying to cover my tracks. "Stop what?"

He practically glared through me, huffing as he walked past me onto the mat.

Taking his lack of response as an open door, I tried to press him for more details.

"So where did you-"

"No." He cut me off, watching me with a cold gaze from the other side of the mat. We stared at each other silently for a moment, both of us feeling the tension in the room.

"What do you mean 'no'? I didn't even finish my question." I tried one more time to pry the information from him, curiosity driving me forward.

"Just no," He put an immediate stop to my questioning. "Now get up."

Sheepishly, I realized I was still sitting on the ground and rose slowly to my feet.

Cade ran at me full force, catching me off guard. Instinctively, I put my hands out to stop the onslaught. Cade slowed as he neared me, surprising me by grabbing my wrist and wrenching my body to the side. I felt something touch my feet and was suddenly on the ground on my hands and knees, my hair falling around my face.

I heard the sound of snapping plastic and looked at Cade just in time to see him tossing aside the broken shards of my hair clip. Annoyed that he was toying with me, I launched myself at him with no regard for where I might hit, simply looking to make contact.

He easily side stepped me. I felt his hand grip my hair and a pain in my scalp as I hit the mat again, this time on my back.

Rubbing the sore spot on the back of my head, I stood as Cade paced away from me.

"What the hell was that?" I asked, my pride wounded.

He ignored me.

"That's not how we've been doing things, Cade."

"That's right. In the past I was pulling my punches before I made contact, using fear to teach you."

"I'm not afraid of you."

"Apparently." He lifted his hands in front of him as if to mount another assault. So as not to be surprised again, I mirrored him. "I thought fear of getting hit might teach you to keep your elbow down," he lunged to my left, making swift contact with my ribs. I grunted, and tucked in my elbow. "That it might teach you to keep your weight balanced between both your feet." He stepped to my left, quickly switching and going right instead. I stumbled as I tried to follow him and he graced me with a kick to the back of the leg.

There was a blur of movement as I tried to reorient myself. I felt his solid chest pressed against my back and memories of my dream flooded me. I was brought back to the current moment as a sharp pain snapped my head back, his strong fingers winding through my hair, twisting the length into thick ropes. He leaned down to whisper in my ear.

"Or that it might teach you to never let your opponent get behind you." He released me and gave me a rough shove forward. "But, you're not afraid, Makara, so pain will be your teacher. You fuck up, you get hurt."

I didn't want to admit that he was right; my training was going slower than I would have liked, and the threat of pain would probably help me learn faster.

"And I suppose breaking my hair clip was some sort of lesson as well?" I questioned him, reaching for something I didn't think he'd be able to explain, something I'd thought he'd done just to piss me off.

"Yes."

"Really?" I looked at him incredulously. "Breaking the clip was not scary, and it was only painful when you pulled my hair. I think you just wanted another way to show that you're better than me."

He sighed, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Do you wear your hair like that every day?"

I looked at him, trying to figure out what he had actually said because I had obviously heard him wrong. The surprise at his sudden interest in my hair styles lasted a few moments before I realized he was watching me expectantly, waiting for an answer.

"No, why would-"

"And do you plan on chopping all your hair off?"

"Of course not, I-"

"Then it's a weakness, and you need to learn to defend yourself despite your weaknesses. Not every fight you get into is going to be planned, Makara, you won't always have time to tie your hair back."

I planted my hands on my hips, annoyance at his logical argument tempting me to be contrary.

"Hair pulling is a dirty trick. No honorable person would do that."

"And you think everyone you fight will be honorable?" He scoffed. "When pulling your hair is the difference between you killing them and them killing you, do you think your opponent would hesitate?"

"Well, you seemed to take more pleasure in it than was absolutely necessary."

"Hmm?"

"You made it intimate."

"Fighting IS intimate, Makara."

"You made it sexual."

"Did I?"

"Yes, when you…pressed against me, and whispered in my ear."

He stalked towards me, taking slow, deliberate steps, stopping only when he stood directly in front of me.

"It wasn't MY scent that filled the room."

My cheeks flushed in embarrassment. I hadn't considered that Cade would be able to recognize my scent. I admonished myself for missing such an obvious fact; if Silas could pick up on it then of course Cade could as well.

I searched for an argument, any argument, that might hold up against his logical assault, settling on one not much better than 'I'm rubber, you're glue'."

"Just because I can't smell YOUR arousal, doesn't mean it's not there. Don't act like that positioning didn't affect you."

"You're deluded if you think that. You should put as much effort into filling the gap between your ears as the one between your thighs."

"What the hell does that mean?" I asked, taken aback by the toxicity of his words.

"Why don't you ask my father? I'm sure he'd be happy to demonstrate for his newest fuck toy."

"Is that what you think? That I fuck Silas?"

"It's what everybody thinks." He watched me appraisingly.

My confusion at his revelation was quickly outweighed by my anger. How dare he assume to know anything about me, or my situation.

"Fuck you, Cade," I lashed out, the words spilling from my mouth before I had a chance to filter them. "Not that it's any of your business, but I've never fucked Silas, nor anybody else. Sure, I've thought about it, but I can't be blamed for where my mind goes, that's hardly in my control. And yeah, I've dreamt about it, but who cares, I dream about sex all the time. Dreams don't mean anything, even you've been in my-" I clamped my mouth shut, finally realizing what I was about to say, and who I was about to say it to.

His eyes widened and he straightened awkwardly, his back becoming stiff and unbending.

"We're done here." He marched to the bench, not wasting any time in throwing his shirt over his shoulder before grabbing his bag and storming towards the door.

"What?" I was once again confused by the nonsensical noise released from Cade's face. "We've barely been here ten minutes."

"Training's cancelled tomorrow too," he shouted behind him as he shouldered through the doors.

I stood in stunned silence for a moment, unsure if I had heard him correctly. Regathering control of my body, I took off after him.

"Cade?" I pushed past the heavy door into the empty hallway, cursing that Cade, shifted as he was, was much faster than me; I had no chance of catching him.

Reaching down, I grumbled as my fingers brushed over the flat fabric of my empty pocket; I had left my phone upstairs. Unable to catch him, or contact him, I decided I didn't have much choice but to go home.

I was seething. That Cade would think so little of my training to be able to put such an immediate stop to it was unacceptable to me. I walked through the hallway towards the elevator, but the stairs beckoned to me, the exertion of climbing them promising to burn away at least some of my anger.

Although I ascended quickly, taking the stairs two at a time, I knew it would be a while before I reached the top. Cade's words replayed in my head, the implications becoming obvious the more I thought about it. Despite my struggle to avoid doing just that, everybody assumed I was here to spread my legs for Silas.

I stewed with the thought, frustrated and annoyed that my actions didn't seem to matter as much as people's assumptions. I wondered if Silas knew what people talked about, suddenly feeling the need to confront him about it.

The climb hadn't done as much as I'd hoped to curb my mood, instead bolstering the aggravation I felt. My limbs burned as I pushed them to maintain the pace my frenzied thoughts had set.

After a few minutes, disguised by my adrenaline as hours, I reached the top floor, taking a quick moment to catch my breath. I intentionally walked slowly, but steadily down the hallway toward our suite, hoping to give myself enough time to prepare what I would say, having apparently overlooked the need for words on my way up. I had settled on a stern but direct question as I shoved open the doors to the library, pointing myself in the direction of Silas' study. The second I crossed the threshold, my carefully chosen inquiry fled my brain, leaving me an angry, panting mess in the middle of the room.

Silas barely acknowledged me, sparing a fleeting glance over a pair of glasses I had never seen him wear. They aged him. For a moment I wondered where Emery was, concluding that she must have been sent away.

"Did you know everybody thinks we're fucking?" I blurted, more aggressively than I had planned.

He didn't look up from his papers. I watched the top of his pen wiggle as he made a note and then turned over the page.

"I assumed."

"Why would everybody think that?" I asked, incredulously, "We're not fucking."

"No," he stated calmly, "but word travels fast around here. I would think, by now, most people know that I went to the estate to kill you that night, and instead, moved you in. How many reasons can you think of that I would do such a thing?" He studied the pages in front of him, not bothering another glance in my direction.

"So that's why you brought me here then? For sex?"

He dropped his pen, clasping his hands on the desk and looking up at me.

"Makara, I brought you here because YOU asked me to, and I've made it no secret that I want you warming my bed. However, you may have noticed that despite your insistence against said activity, you're still here. You're not dead, so lack of horizontal positioning aside, I must still enjoy your company." I just watched him, not sure what to say. "Now, unless you plan on giving me something more interesting to focus on," his eyes raked over my body, unashamed, "I have work to do." He picked up his pen to continue his ministrations without waiting for me to answer.

Feeling an odd mix between scolded and ogled, I turned on my heels, quickly making for the door.

"Oh and Makara," I stopped in my tracks, but didn't face him. "While I did enjoy the view, I don't appreciate you toying with me to fuel whatever feud you have with Emery. Next time you…present…yourself to me, I don't know that I'll be able to control myself."

I took a deep breath and scurried out the door.

Chapter Text

After my confrontation with Silas, I had marched directly to my room, promptly arming myself with my cell phone. I immediately typed out my demand to know why training had been cancelled and sent the message to Cade.

As expected, he ignored me. I sent him multiple follow up messages. Both, accusing him of being immature with how he handled the situation, and explaining that a person can't control what pops into their mind while unconscious.

With no response, yet again, I gave up trying to get an answer from him and, after enough time had passed that my earlier embarrassment with Silas was forgotten, I spent the rest of my day in the library, and my night in a dream filled slumber.

Cade had me in the familiar position of his chest against my back, his fingers once again threaded through my hair. His deep voice whispered sweetly in my ear, between feather light kisses he placed on my exposed neck.

I melted into him, allowing his lips to ignite the skin under them, and his hands to roam where they pleased.

He pulled away and I caught a glimpse of his scar as he moved toward a couch I had been too preoccupied to notice. My gaze dropped lower and I was once again disappointed that my view was obscured by a pair of boxers.

Sitting on the edge of the couch, he leaned back, beckoning me towards him. As though I didn't have a choice, I obeyed, setting my knees onto the cushions as he guided me to straddle him. I gasped as he lowered me into his lap, feeling his excitement as he aligned himself along the length of my naked core.

A soft, involuntary moan escaped me as I rolled my hips forward. He smiled and placed his hands on my hips, encouraging me to continue my movements. I didn't need encouragement. The heat that tore through my body was enough to force my hips to rock, the promise of ecstacy drawing them forward and backward.

After only a few seconds I noticed how easily I was gliding as the thin layer of fabric separating our sexes become soaked with my juices and the air filled with almost desperate panting. Cade gave a series of soft grunts and I grinned, pleased that I wasn't the only one affected.

I hunched forward, closing my eyes and buried my face in his neck, my movements becoming erratic as I drew close.

"Look at me." I heard and a hand circled my neck, squeezing carefully, but aggressively.

I pulled back, instinct and excitement driving me to do exactly as he told me. I opened my eyes as the first wave of my orgasm washed over me, undeterred that it was no longer Cade who looked back at me.

Rodan grunted and held me in place as he bucked forward, adding his own release to the mixture between us. I squirmed beneath his grip, still enjoying the pleasure that rolled through me with each movement.

As the feeling became too much, I stilled myself. I panted hard, trying to fill my lungs as my efforts had forced my breath from me.

I noticed how Rodan lifted his hands behind his head and stared at me casually, his lip turned up in a satisfied smirk and sweat glistened on his bare chest.

I looked down to the mess we made, and made a slow ascent with my eyes, enjoying the sight in front of me. As I looked back to his face, I saw Silas standing behind the couch. I hadn't noticed him earlier but I wondered if he had been there the whole time. Suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable as both men watched me, I shrank back, attempting to shift out of Rodan's lap. Disinclined to allow me my freedom, he pulled me back down onto him, covering my lips with his. He kissed me passionately, his powerful tongue invading my mouth with ease.

That was when I woke up, the slickness between my legs forcing be to acknowledge that I had, more or less, just grinded on my brother until I came in his lap.

"At least most of it was Cade." I thought, easily deciding which of the two I would consciously choose.

Annoyed with the whole thing, I went for a shower, ignoring Silas in the living room as Emery curled up against him, happy that he had managed to keep his pants on this morning. I showered quickly, not wasting any time, and dressed in my training clothes, hoping Cade wasn't serious.

Picking up my phone, I sent him another message, hoping to convince him to reply.

"Seriously, Cade, you can't ignore me forever. You still haven't given me the details of Tal and Bash's party."

"Suite 1034. 5PM," his response was almost immediate. Encouraged by his reply, I pushed further.

"Oh, so you're talking to me again? Does this mean training's back on?"

I waited impatiently for a few minutes before deciding he had gone back to ignoring me.

I went to the training room anyway, hoping that he would be there and we could continue like nothing had happened. I was the one who should be embarrassed, having Cade know that I dreamt about him, so why was he the one freaking out?

I earned the attention of a few curious stares as I pushed through the door, unfortunately none of them were Cade's. I wasn't surprised that he wasn't there, but disappointment flared deep in my chest anyway.

•°~~****~~°•

I followed the cacophony down the hall, easily locating the correct suite. Wolves spilled from the doorway, overflowing from the crowded living space into the brightly lit corridor. Pushing past them, through the threshold, I gazed around the room.

Tables lined the walls, various covered trays on display, promising a wide arrangement of delicious food. I tried to listen to the conversations that drifted around me, too loud to ignore, but too quiet to catch anything that was said.

"Makara! So glad you could make it!" Tal reached out to grab and gently squeeze my hand, darting off from one guest to another before I could thank her.

I watched as she bounded happily over to Bash leaning in to whisper something in this ear. He nodded and pulled her closer, placing a kiss on top of her head, causing me to smile at their sweetness.

I was almost too distracted to notice Cade sliding away from them, giving them their space. Marching up to him, I jammed my finger into his chest, pretending the action was not akin to poking a brick wall. He batted my finger, rolled his eyes and stepped away.

"Don't you dare," I barked at him, following closely behind as he fled. "You can't shut down training, ignore me all day, and then avoid me too."

"Sure I can." He continued moving, weaving through the crowd.

"Cade," I tried to get in front of him, finding the task impossible. "Just because I dreamt of having s-"

"Don't." I nearly walked right into him as he stopped abruptly, finally turning to face me.

"Don't what?" I asked defiantly. "Explain to you how you're being an immature little pup and give you shit for leaving me high and dry for training today, and yesterday for that matter?"

"Yeah. Now, go away." He spun on his heel and continued away from me.

I blinked, surprise at his flat response nailing me to the floor. Shaking my head and regaining control over my limbs, I raced to catch up with him, grabbing at the back of his arm to convince him to stop.

"I won't go away! Look, I'm sorry if I somehow made you uncomfortable, it wasn't my intention, but I hardly think that warrants…THIS. But the joke's on you, I still trained this morning, all by myself."

"I know. I got the pictures." He pulled his arm out of my grip, annoyance coloring his words. Perhaps twelve pictures had been a few too many, but I wanted him to see that I would prosper despite his inane reaction, and that I had control over my own life. I would train, with or without him, and even though I wasn't quite sure how to do that, I would never admit it to him.

"See, I don't need you." I spat at him, trying to get a reaction.

"Yeah, that's why you haven't left me alone since yesterday morning."

"On principle, not necessity."

"Whatever. I don't want you near me. Go away." He backed away from me, his gaze flashing to Tal as she moved to the front of the room.

"Not until you tell me why you're being so weird."

"Hello!" Tal's cheery voice rang out. "If I could have everyone's attention, I would really appreciate it!"

"Go," Cade growled, his frustration evident in his clenched teeth.

"No."

Cade turned, intent on putting distance between us.

"Nobody move!" Tal called, staring daggers into Cade and he reluctantly moved back, earning a small smile of approval. "Thanks for coming everyone, your support means so much to us. We'd like to take this time to announce that Bash and I are expecting our first pup!"

The crowd clapped, but as a whole the reaction was rather subdued compared to what I had been expecting.

"Nobody's surprised," I mumbled, half to myself.

"Of course not. They knew. Everyone can smell it." Cade shot me a sidelong glance. "Almost everyone."

I glared into the side of his face, wondering briefly how hard he'd hit me back if I smacked him, before abandoning the idea.

"To celebrate, we've created a contest for you guys!" Tal walked over to a table, pulling out a large white poster from underneath it.

"Why go through the trouble of announcing it, if everyone already knows?"

I looked to Cade for an answer, but he made a point to ignore me. This was obviously something I should know, something I would know if I were shifted, or if I hadn't been so sheltered.

"Come on Cade, show me how much smarter than me you are."

He rolled his eyes in exasperation.

"Respect."

I looked back to Tal, feeling a little silly. Of course it would be disrespectful to discuss a pregnancy before the mother has given her approval. It would be extremely difficult to have everyone know such a personal thing, particularly if the pregnancy was unwanted or inviable. The announcement was Tal's confirmation that she was through the most dangerous times of her pregnancy and that this was something to be celebrated.

Tal moved back to her place in front of the crowd.

"The rules to the contest are simple. You will be put into teams of two, Bash will be pairing you up based on where you're standing." Cade attempted to slip away as Tal spoke.

"Hey, man." Bash appeared in front of him, blocking his escape. "Where ya goin'?" He moved between us, placing an arm around each of our shoulders.

"Bash, don't." Cade took up a warning tone.

"Partners!" Bash announced, smirking as he moved on to the next couple.

Cade thrust his tongue into his cheek, as though he were using a great deal of effort not to lash out. I smiled, he was stuck with me now.

"These are some of the rarest flowers native to this territory," Tal continued, revealing the reverse side of the poster she was holding. "Each one is ranked by their rarity. You will have two hours to bring me a flower, the team who brings me the highest ranked flower will win. I don't care how you get it, but please be safe everybody!" Nobody moved, waiting for the rest of the rules. "That's it! Get going!" She shooed everyone away and the crowd began to bustle.

I craned my neck, trying to get a closer look at the ranking. I recognized one of the images, although it took me a moment to place where I had seen it.

"Which do y-, hey!" I called to Cade's back, his feet having already carried him halfway out the door. I dodged through the crowd, squeezing between wolves and running to follow Cade. Lucky for me, his path had been blocked by some of the other contestants trying to pile into the elevator. I caught up to him as he pushed through the door to the stairs.

"Cade," I shouted, promptly following him into the echoing stairwell. "Wh-"

"Stop talking." He whirled on me, his voice shockingly calm, but masking none of his anger, before continuing his descent.

"Why are you so mad at me?" I followed close behind him.

I didn't have to see him to know he rolled his eyes, sighing at my disregard of his order.

"I didn't want to be your partner."

"Yeah, I got that. But what I don't know, is WHY."

"You haven't left me alone in two days."

"That's your fault though." He glared at me over his shoulder, never slowing his pace. "What? It's true. I know I'm being annoying, but you were mad way before I ever sent you a text, and I have no idea why." He ignored me, focusing steadfastly on the steps in front of him. "The least you could do is tell me what I did to piss you off; give me a chance to make up for it, or apologize or something."

There was an almost deafening silence as he refused to respond, only marred by our foot falls echoing off the concrete walls. I let him sulk quietly for a moment, surprised that the numbers on the wall told me we were already halfway to the main floor.

"How are we supposed to win if-"

"Oh, we're going to win." I allowed myself a small grin, amused that his competitive nature had pushed aside whatever offense I had offered him. "I know exactly where to get the Aconithus Daisy."

"Which one is that?" I questioned, shocked that he would know such a specific name.

"The red one."

"Isn't that the second ranked flower?"

"Yes."

"Shouldn't we go after the first one?" I asked the obvious question.

"The first one is the Lechenaria. It's been extinct for over twenty years."

"Really? You're sure?"

He looked back at me, his irritation obvious on his face. He was sure.

Taking the last few steps, we spilled into the main lobby, Cade not losing any speed as he took long strides, each one worth two of my own.

"Stay here," he ordered over his shoulder. I strained to hear him, struggling to keep up with his frantic pace.

"What?" I froze, planting my feet. "Why would I do that?" Surprisingly, Cade turned around.

"Because I'm telling you to."

"But I know wh-"

"I'm going to get the Daisy, and you're just going to get in my way. So stay here, or don't, I don't care. But, you're not coming with me. Just be here before we have to go back upstairs." He spun, stalking off to go flower picking and leaving me alone in the lobby.

•°~~****~~°•

"It's about time you got going, dear," Henry spoke sweetly, checking his watch and bringing his story to a close. "Thanks for chatting with me."

I had found him nestled in a large armchair around the corner from the very lobby Cade had abandoned me in, reading quietly and stealing glances at passers by.

"No, Henry, thank you. I really appreciate it." I smiled, nabbing a quick hug from the chuckling old man.

"Off you go, you don't want to be late."

With a final wave over my shoulder I rounded the corner to meet Cade in the designated area.

"There you are!" Cade rushed up to me, turning me by my shoulder and pushing me along in front of him.

"Why so happy to see me? You said you didn't care if I stayed here."

"I've been waiting for twelve minutes." He jammed his finger into the elevator call button, finally releasing his grip on me and allowing me to turn around.

"So what? We've still got-" I pulled out my phone, checking the time. "-eighteen before we have to be back."

"There were three other sets of partners climbing to get the Daisy." He stepped into the elevator, the sliding doors inviting him quietly.

"Climbing?" I asked, suddenly curious where he had gotten this flower. He glared at me, waiting impatiently until I followed him into the elevator, stabbing at the floor number when I was finally on board.

"Yes, the Daisy only grows at the top of a steep rock wall. But there's lots of hand holds so it's only a matter of time before everyone else gets to it."

"And you don't want to tie?" I guessed. "And you think if we get back to Tal and Bash first then we'll win?"

"That I'll win," He corrected. "It's not like you did anything to help."

I ignored his comment, opting against pointing out that he insisted on climbing the stupid cliff on his own and that I helped much more than he knew, allowing a smug smirk to creep over my face instead.

He was silent for the rest of the way back, the only noise coming from his rustling clothes as he moved through the hallway to the suite.

"Cade! Makara!" Tal shouted as we crossed through the doorway, running up to meet us. "I knew you guys would get back first!"

I was surprised to see Cade smile at her as he returned the hug she threw at him, thinking briefly that the gesture suited him.

"Did you bring a flower?" She asked excitedly, throwing her arms around me as Bash came to stand next to her.

"Yes," Cade reached into a large pocket by his knee, moving careful so as not to disturb the delicate petals.

"Right here," I jumped in before Cade could reveal the Daisy.

He looked at me incredulously, his brow furrowed deeply in confusion before his gaze dropped to the flower in my outstretched palm.

Chapter Text

"Is that what I think it is?" Bash asked, astonishment clearly evident in his tone.

"Where did you get that?" Cade looked from the flower to me.

"From Henry," Tal replied for me, taking the flower, perfectly preserved between two pieces of hard plastic, from my hand.

"Henry?" Cade huffed. "Why would Henry have a Lechenaria? And how would you even know about it?" He glared at me, doubt burning in his gaze.

"We-" I started, quickly shutting my mouth as Tal began to speak again.

"Why don't you ask Henry?" She posed with a mixture of defensiveness and playfulness. "The real question is how you DIDN'T know about it. I know it's only two inches long, but he keeps the damn thing on his key chain. You would have seen it if you took even thirty seconds to talk to him. Don't shit on Makara just because she saw in a week what you couldn't see in almost twenty years." She shrugged dismissively. "You didn't think I would include it in the rankings without knowing there was one nearby, did you?"

Cade's gaze shifted from Tal to me, and I smiled at him, pleased that somebody else had pointed out how useful I had been. Now he would have to admit that I had done well, and that he should have worked with me.

"Don't worry, dude," Bash spoke up, placing a hand lazily on Cade's shoulder. "I didn't know about it either."

I chuckled in triumph as Cade shrugged him off, crossing his arms and walking decidedly away from us.

The rest of the night was rather uneventful. The other competitors started piling in shortly after us, all excitedly presenting their find to Bash and Tal. She congratulated all of them, and when the last group had come back, with barely a minute of our two hour time limit remaining, presented Cade and I with the prize.

The wolf was hand carved into black soap stone and intricately detailed. I ran my fingers over each purposeful indentation as it sat in the palm of my hand, admiring the hard work and time Tal had obviously put into it. She had been working on them for months, she told us, watching us excitedly for our reactions. I carefully placed the figurine in my pocket, already thinking of where I could display it.

With the competition over, Tal had revealed an array of delicious smelling food. It took only minutes for everyone to have a plate, happily munching on one dish or another. The sound of nibbling and gnawing quickly gave way to laughter, music and footsteps as everyone began dancing, and finally sporadic silence as the suite slowly emptied, leaving only Cade and I behind to help clean.

"Thanks for your help guys." Tal yawned. "You can let yourselves out right?" She reached behind her for Bash's hand, pulling him along with her. "I'm exhausted."

They disappeared down the hallway to their bedroom as I threw the last of the paper plates in the trash. Cade leaned the final folding table up against the wall and turned towards the door.

"What are you doing?" He asked when I slid in front of him, blocking his exit.

"Just waiting for you to admit that we couldn't have won without my help."

"Actually, we would have," He casually retorted.

"You're just speculating." He shouldered past me through the door and I quickly followed behind him as he walked down the hallway. "More likely we would have tied with the other teams who brought the Daisy." The elevator call button lit up and dinged as he jabbed it, and he got on when the doors immediately opened, ignoring me as he did. I stepped onto the elevator as well. "Why are you so mad at me?" I finally questioned, tired of the silent treatment.

"I never said I was mad."

"You just didn't want to be anywhere near me for two days?" I asked incredulously, sarcasm dripping from my voice and my eyes directed at the floor in annoyance.

"Right." The elevator doors slid open and he stepped off, pausing until they started to close again. "Good job with the flower."

I looked up in shock, just in time to catch a glimpse of Cade before the doors sealed in front of me and I was carried another floor higher.

I beamed, a goofy grin lighting up my face at his compliment. He was never quick to praise, so I knew his words had been sincere.

But, if I were completely honest, I was confused. Cade said he wasn't mad at me, but made a point to avoid me and then finally admitted that I had done something well. He never explained why he had cancelled training, and I didn't expect him to at this point. But I couldn't help but feel a little bit validated and hoped training would be back to normal tomorrow.

As soon as the elevator released me, I absent mindedly wandered down the hall towards Silas's suite. A ping from my phone drew my attention and I quickly pulled it out of my pocket, wondering who would be messaging me so late.

"I was wrong to say I wanted you to be miserable. I'm sorry."

I stared at the message from Rodan, all but certain I had read it wrong. Only when the fourth attempt produced the same results did I accept that he had actually sent an apology, although I was wary of his sincerity.

I was unsure of how to feel. He was my brother and I had grown up with him, he was apologizing and a part of me felt obligated to accept. But another, larger part of me thought about how much he had kept from me, how he denied me everything that I wanted and the general lack of respect in the way he had treated me since we were kids. I closed the message without responding, deciding it would take more than an apology to fix things.

Silas was still awake when I walked inside, pouring over papers that he had laid out on the table and gathering them when he saw me.

"I trust you had a good night," he asked casually.

"Mostly good. A little bit weird."

"Oh?" He perked up curiously. "What happened that's so weird?"

"Rodan messaged me." I answered, deciding to leave out everything that had happened with Cade, considering I didn't really know what happened with Cade.

"Hmm. What did he say?"

I looked at him, suspicious of his intentions for discussing me and Rodan. He had a pattern of drawing attention to certain unwanted feelings I had for my brother and I wasn't in the mood to deal with that.

Slinking into the armchair, I hesitated before answering.

"He apologized."

He quirked his eyebrow, obviously not expecting that response.

"Are you going back?"

"What? No. It's not like him, so it's probably just a tactic to get me there. Besides, he didn't apologize for everything, only one specific thing he said the last time I saw him. It's going to take a lot more than that for me to want to go back."

He sighed as what seemed to be relief washed over him.

"So you like it here?"

"Yes. You guys have done so much for me. Without you, I'd never even know about the gaps in my knowledge and training, let alone be able to fill them in."

"Good. Come with me." He stalked off towards the library.

"Go with you where?" I called out after him, rolling my eyes and getting up to follow when he ignored me.

I poked my head into the library. When I didn't see him, I continued into his study. He stood innocently by his desk, arms crossed in front of his chest.

Without saying anything, he reached behind him and revealed a package, handing it to me. It looked almost like a shoe box, but much too thin. I eyed him, half expecting the box to contain some slinky outfit he'd decided I'm to wear around the house.

"What's this?"

He motioned towards the box, silently telling me to open it.

Cautiously, I pulled at the lid. I had a quick thought of spring loaded snakes jumping out at me, but quickly dismissed the idea. Silas was not the kind of man for pranks.

A thin piece of tissue paper separated me from the mysterious item. I brushed it out of the way and a familiar scent filled my nostrils as I ran my fingers over the cover of the book in front of me, freshly bound in black leather. I flipped open the cover and glanced back up at Silas who was watching me intently.

"This is the moon goddess legend," I stated the obvious in my shock.

"It is."

I stammered, searching for words, but I was completely speechless.

"How…I mean, why did you-"

"You said it was your favourite, right?" I nodded, thankful that the action seemed to require less brain power than words. "You liked my copy so much, I thought you'd like to have your own."

"Wow. I don't even know what to say, Silas." I pulled out the book, tossing the now empty box aside and grasping my new text in both hands. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," He said deeply as he watched me.

"Wait. Is this you trying to get in my pants?"

"That depends." He laughed. "Is it working?"

"Do I still get to keep the book if I say no?"

"Of course."

"In that case, no, it's not working."

Silas smiled. I never could seem to rattle him. He was always simply amused by whatever I said.

I distractedly sank into one of Silas' office chairs, flipping through pages of the book. Feelings of sadness and nostalgia overwhelmed me as I remembered when I had received this book the first time.

"Want to talk about it?" Silas asked, noticing my sudden mood change.

"Talk about what?"

"Whatever it is you're obviously thinking about."

I stayed quiet, not sure if I wanted to discuss this with him. I had a feeling he would turn it into a way to hit on me, or insinuate something incestuous, which seemed to delight him. But, we had an agreement and I couldn't outright lie and tell him everything was fine.

"Are you just trying to get in my pants again?" I asked, hoping to change the subject.

"Not this time. Tell me what's wrong. I'll listen, no seduction attempts, I promise."

He sat in the chair next to me, a serious mask settling over his face.

"Rodan gave me my first copy of this book." I told him quietly, deciding to trust him.

"I thought you said he destroyed it."

"Oh, he did, years later. But he was the one who got it for me in the first place, back when we were kids, before we hated each other."

"It's normal for siblings not to get along."

"Not like us."

"What happened to cause all the tension?"

"I don't know. Nothing, I guess, and everything. And now so much has happened, I don't know if it'll ever improve."

"He treated you that badly?"

"It wasn't all him, to be honest. I wasn't very nice to him either. But, we used to be close. All I wanted was for my father to recognize my efforts, but they were never good enough." I shook my head, chuckling angrily. "I didn't believe Rodan when he said he was worked tirelessly. I thought he was just being dramatic because he didn't like hard work. But now, after finding out how sheltered and smothered I actually was, I think maybe he was right. Maybe he fought just as hard for Rune's acceptance as I did for his respect."

Silas' eyes widened in surprise.

"He's still a total ass," I added. "But I can't help but think it could have been different if I wasn't so clueless to what Rune was doing. Now, I'm in this fucked up situation, my dad's dead, I ran away from home to live with our rival pack, and my relationship with my only remaining family member is tense, both violently and apparently sexually." I cringed as the words poured out of my mouth without me realizing it.

"Don't forget your 'will she, won't she' sexual relationship with said rival pack's handsome Alpha."

I glared at him, smiling when I was met with kind, playful eyes instead of the seductive ones I was expecting.

"Oh right, that." I chuckled. "But none of that matters anyway; it is what it is. There's nothing I can do to change it now." I stood, shaking off my negative feelings, reminding myself of my progress since I left home. "Thank you again for the book, Silas. It's amazing and I really appreciate it."

I walked over to stand in front of him, leaning over to hug the shoulders of his seated form as his arms came up to circle my waist. Pulling away from the hug I placed a quick peck on his lips.

I realized my mistake immediately. I had intended the peck to be chaste, simply a kind gesture to show my thanks. But Silas' arms held me tight and he deepened the kiss. I was flooded with desire and my resolve broke almost instantly. I kissed him back, allowing him access to my tongue.

He stood, never breaking us apart and walked me backwards. The second my legs touched his desk he scooped me up, easily depositing me on top of the solid wood surface in a sitting position and placing himself with his hips between my legs. I clutched the back of his head with one hand, barely noticing when the other dropped to his chest, and then his waist as my fevered mind urged me to touch every inch of him.

An involuntary whimper escaped me as he broke the kiss, placing his forehead against mine, not ready to pull away completely. I was equal parts disappointed and thankful for the few inches of separation between our lips.

He swallowed thickly between hard breaths that matched my own ragged panting.

Standing up straight, he left a tingling trail as he ran his hands from my hips, down my legs and rested them on my knees.

"Have a good night, Makara."

Without waiting for me to respond, he turned and left.

"Shit," I mumbled, running my fingers through my hair and still trying to get control of my breathing. I knew without a doubt that I would have let Silas do whatever he wanted in that moment. More importantly, I knew that he knew it too.

I didn't know why he had stopped, but I thought it best not to question it. I didn't need him changing his mind and coming back for more. Especially when my heart was still pounding from the experience.

I made a mental note to never put myself in that situation again. I still intended to give my first time to my mate, whoever they were, and was fully aware that whether or not I accomplished that had been completely under Silas' control the second our lips touched. I needed to be more careful. I needed to keep control.

Sliding off his desk, I grabbed the book from Silas' chair where I had dropped it and walked back to my room. I threw myself into the inviting warmth of my bed, sleep taking over almost immediately, exhausted as I was from the events of the day.

Blinking my eyes open, I saw I was surrounded. Rodan was on my left, Silas in front of me and Cade to my right, although none of them were close enough to touch. Their frames were in similar states of undress, a simple pair of shorts being all that protected their modesty, however poorly.

I looked between Silas and Rodan, their prominent builds casting long shadows on the walls behind them. Cade's shadow was strange and looked as though another man, shrouded in black, stood beside him. Somehow, to my dream addled mind, that was perfectly normal.

Everybody was still, watching me intently and not making a sound. My gaze shifted from one sculpted chest to the next, wondering how this would play out.

I knew what usually happened when any of the scantily clad men in front of me appeared in my dreams and each of them flashed me a knowing smile. I swallowed nervously; it had never been all three before, not at the same time.

Someone grabbed my arm from behind me and I gasped in surprise as they whirled me around to face them. The man, unrecognizable for the blood running down his face, gripped my arm so tightly, with such intensity it started to tingle and lose feeling.

He fell to his knees, blood sputtering from his mouth as he tried to talk. I couldn't tell where the blood was coming from, but it was everywhere, covering him like a scarlet suit and leaving red streaks down my arm. The numb feeling of his touch quickly gave way to pain, my skin becoming heated and starting to burn. The fire spread from my arm, moving to my shoulders and throughout my chest.

I tried to remind myself I was dreaming, but struggled to breathe, panic and fear starting to set in anyway. In my desperation I pawed at his fingers, attempting to pry open his grip. Instantly, agony erupted from my head, ripping through my body like a tidal wave. I had a brief flashback of stepping towards the bloody wolf before the pain drove the thought away.

I woke with a start, sitting upright in bed, panting and covered in a cold sweat.

Chapter Text

I stepped out of my room, feeling refreshed after a shower, the hot water washing away the chills of my haunting dream.

"No Emery this morning?" I asked Silas as I passed him, sitting in his usual spot on the couch.

"Oh, she was here. I sent her home."

"Already?"

"Yes, already. She served her purpose."

"And by purpose, you mean presenting you with holes to fill?"

"More or less," he replied dryly without looking up from his customary file.

I shook my head and let out a light chuckle, glad at least that I wouldn't have to see Emery.

Moving to the kitchen, I opened the fridge, pulling out the half empty jug of orange juice. Swinging open the cupboard door, I grabbed blindly for a glass, muscle memory guiding my movements. I frowned when my hand swiped through empty air.

Confused, I looked in the cupboard to find the bottom two shelves, the ones I could reach, had been completely emptied and the glasses moved to the top shelf.

"What the hell?" I mumbled to myself.

"Silas?" I called to him in the other room. "Did you move the glasses?"

I waited for an answer, hearing the soft ruffle of his clothes and his light footsteps as he came into the kitchen instead.

"Actually, I think the cleaner rearranged everything, the mugs were moved too."

It was a strange explanation, but I had no reason to question it, and simply wondered why they would have taken everything off the most accessible shelves.

"Well, I can't reach the glasses n-." I turned to face him as I spoke, getting cut off as he moved in close to me. He rested one of his hands on the counter beside me, the other reaching over my head. His proximity kept me from moving, effectively pinning me in place as well as any physical restraint would have.

I was hoping to keep control over my reaction after how out of hand things had gotten the last time we were this close, but the heat spreading through my center told me my body had other plans. Glancing up at Silas, he flashed me a smirk, confirming my suspicions. I looked away from him awkwardly, trying to ignore the temptation to close the last bit of space between us.

Hearing someone clear their throat, I snapped my attention to the source of the sound. Cade stood in the entryway to the kitchen, watching us quizzically with twitching nostrils. I knew immediately he recognized my scent and my face burned with embarrassment. I had just convinced him I wasn't a fuck toy, and here was Silas, practically on top of me.

Silas casually handed me a glass, not moving back an inch as he waited for me to take it, undeterred by Cade's presence. It occurred to me that he would have heard Cade come in the front door, and simply didn't care that we were about to have an audience.

"Ready?" Cade asked me as Silas backed away.

"Yes." I jumped at the chance to get out of this situation, happy that I had thought to put on my training clothes and that Cade was finally going to resume our usual plans.

I scooted over to Cade, setting the glass on the counter on my way over.

"Oh." I stopped, turning back to Silas. "Thank you for getting me a glass," I told him, feeling obligated to be polite, but not quite convinced he hadn't orchestrated the whole thing as an excuse to get that close to me. I tucked the orange juice back in the fridge and left the suite with Cade.

It was a silent walk through the hallway, and somehow, an even quieter ride down the elevator, neither of us quite sure how to act after everything. I kept looking from Cade to the illuminated floor button, waiting for him to notice he had hit the button for the main lobby, instead of the basement.

When the elevator doors slid open and Cade stepped off, it took me a moment to realize he had intended to hit the lobby button and we were heading outside.

"Where are we going?" I asked, excited to see more of the territory.

"To train."

I rolled my eyes and decided not to waste my time trying to get a better answer, I would see soon enough.

He brought me to the side of the building and I followed him into a wooded area. The trees grew more dense the farther we walked and thin pathways weaved around the sturdy trunks. It didn't take long for the trees to start to spread out again, making way for more rocky terrain. We quickly reached a dead end.

"Whoa." I mumbled quietly to myself, my eyes searching for the top of the nearly sheer rock wall in front of me. I could barely make out the branches of a tree leaning over the side.

"Stop staring. Start climbing."

I looked at him, surprise and nerves freezing me in place.

"You want me to climb that?" I asked, gesturing to the wall.

"Yes."

"But I've never climbed a rock wall before."

"Hence the training."

"And what happens when I inevitably fall?"

"Try not to do that. You'll live, but it'll hurt like a bitch."

I sighed and glanced anxiously at the wall. I had reservations about this, having no experience, but resigned to the fact I would have to do it anyway. Cade was right, that's what the training was for. I tried to convince myself the idea wouldn't be as daunting once I got started.

"You'll do fine. There's lots of hand holds."

I blinked at his uncharacteristic encouragement, surprised that it had actually made me feel a bit better. I spared a small smile, trying to project confidence.

He gave me a few tips to get me started and we began climbing right away, Cade staying more or less beside me the entire time. It was difficult work and I quickly found myself sweating and my chest heaving with the effort. However, the rough surface was filled with pockets and jugs making it extremely easy to find places to hold.

The climb had been mostly quiet, besides the sound of my panting breaths and the occasional piece of advice Cade offered. We were more than halfway up the wall when he started asking questions.

"So what exactly did I walk in on this morning?"

I hadn't expected that and I wasn't quite sure what to tell him. But, I knew he wasn't so much referring to Silas getting a glass for me, more so how close he had been and the obvious tension that had filled the room.

"Honestly, I don't know how to answer that."

"Because you don't want to tell me?"

I froze, hanging motionless from the wall and thought about what he was asking. Was it because I didn't want him to know? Or was it simply because I didn't know for myself? It was a complicated situation, how do I explain something like that?

"Why did you stop?" He interjected before I could respond.

I rolled my eyes impatiently.

"What do you want me to do, Cade? Climb or answer questions?"

"Both."

Sighing, I reached to pull myself up another couple of feet.

"Fine. To answer your question, no, it's not because I don't want to tell you. It's because I don't know. It's complicated."

"What's complicated about it? You said you weren't fucking, but your scent tells a different story."

"I can't get horny without having sex?" I snapped at him, wondering why everyone here seemed to be obsessed with the way I smelled. "After all, you pointed out my scent the other day in training, and I didn't fuck you."

"So after what I saw this morning, you're telling me you haven't had any sexual contact with Silas?"

"That's not what I said," I retorted, feeling obligated to elaborate. "There was…umm…contact, the night you guys came to the estate, but neither of us even…finished," I awkwardly told him, blushing as I thought of the night we met.

"So...what? Oral?"

"What? No! What's with all the questions? Why do you care?"

"I'm curious."

"Really? Mr. 'Doesn't say more than he has to, ever' is curious enough to engage in actual conversation?"

"I'm just trying to get a read on you. From everything I've seen," he started, looking back at me, "and smelled, you're either a liar or there's something else going on."

"I'm not a liar," I offered quietly, stunned into near silence.

"And I believe you. Which is why I'm trying to figure out what the 'something else' is. I want to understand."

"How do you expect to do that?" I paused my climbing again, looking up to see how much further we had to go. I was surprised to see we had made more progress than I thought and a new wave of energy flooded me as I strived to reach the top as quickly as possible, anxious to give my body a break from the exertion.

"For starters, you could tell me what contact you were talking about."

I thought about not telling him. What business was it of his? I decided against it. He held a prominent position in the pack as future Alpha and I was a newcomer. It made sense for him to be wary of the situation. Besides, maybe if I humored him with this, he would start to open up about himself.

I told him what I had offered Silas and why, my cheeks colouring as I described how he had turned the tables and seduced me instead.

"He said he stopped because I only offered sex to protect myself. Other than that, my experience with Silas has mostly been flirting, innuendos and his attempts to entice me, nothing inherently explicit." I knew I couldn't stop there. To be completely honest with Cade, I needed to tell him about what happened in Silas' office. "Then last night…" I paused, feeling more embarrassed about our kiss. At least at the estate I had been trying to preserve my life, but that was not the case yesterday. I had been in no immediate danger and I still sucked on Silas' tongue as it invaded my mouth.

"What about last night?" Cade urged me to continue.

"We sort of kissed." Cade didn't say anything and I felt instantly judged. I insisted that Silas and I were not intimate less than forty eight hours before making out with him. I could see why my story would be hard to believe. "I only intended it to be a quick peck as a thank you for a book he got me and it kinda got carried away. But it didn't last very long, and it didn't go farther than that," I explained.

Without warning, Cade disappeared over the top of the wall, reaching his hand back down to assist me. I gripped it readily, happy for the promised relief for my sore muscles. He easily pulled me up over the edge and I promptly threw myself on the ground, rolling comfortably to my back, grateful for the solid surface underneath me.

"So you haven't fucked him, but you want to?"

I sat up to look at him, ignoring the protest of my abs as I did so.

"Which brings me back to 'I don't know how to answer that'". He stared back at me, as if waiting for more. "He wants me. He told me so and has made it his mission to seduce me. I don't want to sleep with Silas," I continued, finding that I actually liked the freedom of discussing this with someone who wasn't just trying to get me into bed. "But my body…it's like it craves him and I don't understand how what I want and what I feel can be so different."

"I noticed this morning that you looked upset. With the way you smelled, I thought you were just embarrassed that I had walked in on you. But you were uncomfortable with Silas being that close, weren't you?" I gave him a strained smile, not sure what answer he wanted from me. "Can't you just tell him to back off?"

"I could. But I won't. I don't need him to. With Rune and Rodan out of the picture, I finally have control over my own life. I can control…my urges." I sounded about as confident as I felt, but if Cade noticed my hesitation, he didn't say anything.

He was quiet, looking pointedly away from me. After a few minutes he moved back towards the ledge, motioning me to follow him. I groaned, wishing we could take more of a break, but I kept my complaints to myself.

He stopped before dropping his foot down over the side.

"Do you think that's all he wants from you? Sex?"

"What else would he want?"

He shrugged.

"Maybe he has real feelings for you," he explained casually before disappearing behind the edge of the wall.

I was completely nonplussed, never having considered that Silas may have wanted anything other than my body. I quickly disregarded the idea, deciding there wasn't enough to make me think his feelings for me were anything but physical.

I turned to follow him, spotting the daisy Cade had brought to Bash and Tal's competition and noticing for the first time that this wasn't a naturally occurring cliff in the terrain.

From my vantage point, I could see that the structure was more or less cylindrical, the rounded edges easy to spot. The ground was almost completely flat and speckled with daisies and the odd tree. It looked almost as though something had reached down and pulled a handful of Earth into the sky, or pushed it up from below.

"What is this place anyway?" I called to Cade before tentatively lowering myself over the side, making sure my footing was secure.

"We don't really know." I heard him answer. "Some kind of temple, maybe? There's caves all throughout and underneath here, but they're blocked off for safety."

I gave the surface one more quizzical glance, then started my climb down the wall.

It didn't take us as long to get back down and I was soon relieved to have my feet back on the ground. I started stretching out my sore muscles, swinging my arms to loosen them up and Cade answered his ringing phone.

"Dad? What? I'm on my way." He hung up the phone his tone betraying nothing of the conversation he was having. He turned to me, "Can you find your way back from here?"

"Umm," I hesitated, "I think so."

He started away from me, disappearing down the path at a jog, leaving me standing by myself wondering what was going on.

I wandered down the paths, trying to recall the trails we had taken to get here. I took a few wrong turns, ending up at dead ends of thick trees. Eventually, I found my way out, grateful when I saw the brick of the hotel stretching above me.

The lobby was bustling with men I had never seen before and the whole building seemed to carry a tension that wasn't there when we had left.

Getting off the elevator, I moved swiftly through the halls to Silas' suite.

I pushed through the door. The living room was empty but I could hear voices coming from Silas' office, raised in what seemed like anger, or desperation.

"Yes, I saw him. The day before yesterday, I had morning patrol and he had nights. I saw him when we changed shifts." I realized the voice belonged to Bash. He spoke earnestly, like he was trying to convince someone of the truth of his statement. "But he started his rounds right away and I left him to it. I've been with either Tal or Cade ever since."

The door to the office was open but I refrained from looking in.

"Well nobody knows where he is. You were the last one with him." An unfamiliar voice accused him.

"But I wasn't WITH him. We just did the hand off for rounds and that's it. I have no idea what happened to him."

"But you're saying something DID happen."

"I don't-"

"That's enough," Silas interrupted. "Bash, go home."

Seconds later Bash left the office grumbling, his head down, too distracted and distraught to notice me standing off to the side. I turned my attention back to the office where Silas was still speaking, no one willing to cut him off.

"You're my lead enforcer, but I won't have you interrogating my nephew without something more concrete. He's already told you everything he knows. Go find Cade and help with the investigation downstairs."

Another man stomped out the door. He saw me immediately and paused. I shrunk down as he stared at me, not sure if he would be angry. He continued when a rough hand shoved him forward. I recognized the hand as belonging to Silas' beta, Bridger. I had seen him a few times, but had never actually talked to him. He shot me the same glare as the other man had, adding a subtle nod before leaving.

I took a settling breath, glad to be free of the scrutiny of their hard gazes. Slowly, I poked my head into Silas' office. He faced away from me, leaning forward onto his desk, shoulders hunched and a hand rubbing the back of his head.

"Hey," I hoped I wasn't disturbing him.

"Hello, Makara." He turned slowly, speaking his words with a sigh.

"What's going on?" I questioned and walked over to him, my curiosity forcing me to examine the papers strewn about his desk.

"Someone's missing."

"Another? What is that, nine now, between the two packs?"

"Eleven, if you count the two vampires the clan leader reported missing. Amrita hasn't reported any, but with how secluded she is, it's unlikely she's caught up in any of this."

"And there's still no clue as to what's happening?"

He crossed his arms in front of him.

"No. Everyone has disappeared without a trace, not even their scent remains. No one's ever been able to find any leads and after a few days, we're forced to give up the main force of the search."

"The main force?"

"I keep a small team in the field. They're tasked with continuing the search, but it's a lot of ground to cover. We haven't turned up anything yet, on anyone."

A chill ran up my spine. How were any of us supposed to feel safe with this going on in our own backyards?

"Is this him?" I asked, spotting a paper with a man's picture on it. "Dodrick?"

Silas nodded, resting his hands on the desk to either side of him.

"He's one of my closest friends, although I'm now a little ashamed to admit I haven't spent very much time with him over the last few years."

I placed my hand over his, attempting to be reassuring. I wasn't good in this kind of situation. I wanted to help, but didn't know how. He smiled at me.

"To top it off, they think it was Bash who did it." He chuckled half heartedly.

"Why Bash? Is he okay?"

"Bash was the last one to see him, and my enforcer thinks that's enough to go on. Don't worry about him," he continued, seeing my look of concern for the goofy man, "I know Bash couldn't have done it and I won't let them declare him guilty without concrete evidence."

I felt a little more relaxed, for Bash's sake.

"Sir?" Silas faced Bridger who had appeared in the doorway, his bulk taking up nearly the entire frame.

Bridger spared me a fleeting glance, then turned back to Silas and made a gesture with his head, indicating he should follow him. Silas nodded.

"We'll talk later, Makara." He gave my hand a gentle squeeze.

I smiled at him, not sure what else I could do. I followed the two men out into the living room, retreating to my bedroom as they left the apartment.

I had an uneasy feeling, attributing it to the commotion going on. I looked around the room for something to distract me, knowing there was nothing I could do to help with Dodrick. My eyes spotted the book Silas got me, reminding me of last night.

The kiss had been on my mind and while I was glad Silas had pulled away, I was also curious as to why. The mystery of it had me debating whether or not I should ask him about it, trying to decide if I would get an answer and sate my curiosity, or open a door I didn't want to open.

Running my fingers over the leather cover of the book, I shook thoughts of confronting Silas out of my head; now was not a good time.

Settling into a comfortable position on my bed, I flipped to the first page, hardly needing to read the words as I had them almost completely memorized. Almost instantly, the same nostalgia I had experienced yesterday crept over me and I found my thoughts wandering to Rodan.

Opening my phone, I reread the message he had sent me and then reread it again, biting my lip in indecision. A part of me was tempted to reply, pointing out that one simple apology wouldn't be enough to atone for all the damage he had done. Another part desperately wanted the message to be sincere, longing to revert back to the closeness we used to have.

I ran my finger over the screen, typing out my message, deciding that I better say something while I had the chance. With all these wolves disappearing into thin air, following no apparent pattern, there was no way to know if I would be next, or Rodan.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry for my part in all this. But it's going to take more than an apology to fix things."

I hit send. Immediately, a pit formed in my stomach, nerves tying it into tight knots. I scolded myself, embarrassed that I would be so nervous to message my brother. The text itself, I was confident in. I felt it had just enough disdain for the simplicity he had implied by his message, while also leaving the door open to reconnecting.

Staring at the screen, I waited for him to reply before tossing it on the bed impatiently. I couldn't just wait for my phone to go off, sitting around until he deigned to respond. However, my annoyance didn't stop me from snatching it back up the second the small device chirped at me.

I held it for a moment, the pit in my stomach exploding into butterflies as I opened the message, anticlimactic as it was.

"I know."

Chapter Text

He was on top of me, crushing me into the bed in the most satisfying way. I couldn't quite make out who he was, not particularly caring as he took control of my mouth with his. He kissed me with fervor, sending excited pulses through me with every flick of his tongue.

My eager hands clawed at his back and shoulders, trailing along the skin pulled tight over his defined muscles. He ran a finger between my breasts before palming one, teasing my nipple with his thumb. I pulled him closer to me, desperately wanting more, and moaning into his mouth.

I felt him smirk against my lips. He kissed along my jawline and down to my neck, never pulling away enough for me to see his face. Keeping one elbow on the bed to support himself, his other hand roamed freely over my body, leaving goosebumps wherever he passed.

He situated himself between my legs with ease, grinding his hips against me. I shivered as his hand touched the curve of my waist, running over my hip and down my leg to my knee. I gasped as he pulled my leg aside, giving himself more room to work and leaving my aching core vulnerable to his ministrations.

His fingers danced on my inner thigh, making circles and slowly inching closer to his target. My heart pounded with anticipation, my whimpers barely concealed by my panting breath. His hand hovered for a moment, denying me the contact I desperately sought, before coming down to make the same circles against my waiting clit.

Rolling my hips towards him, I lost myself in his touch. I groaned in protest when his hand pulled away, but gasped happily when I felt his finger push inside me. Sinking it in all the way, he used his thumb to continue the pressure on my sensitive button.

I writhed underneath him, feeling the first flutter of a building orgasm under his skilled attention. His movements were relentless, pushing me towards the edge. I threw my head back and arched my spine as he sucked a nipple into his mouth, teasing it lightly with his tongue. I felt my whole body tense as my climax became inevitable.

I woke as my orgasm tore through me, squeezing my legs together for a more intense feeling, drawing it out for as long as I could. I panted heavily trying to catch my breath.

"Good morning," someone said, their tone one of pure lust.

I turned towards them, finding Cade tucked into bed beside me. A thin sheet covered his lower half, his leg stuck out temptingly and his chest was exposed.

I shut my eyes tightly, opening them again and waking with a start. I pinched myself, not wanting to be fooled by my dreams again. I was definitely awake.

I smiled, for once feeling only satisfaction and none of the usual accompanying frustration. I hadn't seen who's fingers had brought me my release and therefore, felt no guilt about cumming all over them. That made it easy to brush all thoughts of the dream away.

I crawled out of bed, intent on getting something to eat. Silas wasn't on the couch when I came out, and passing by his room, I realized why.

It was quiet, but I could hear moaning from behind his door. It was obviously female, telling me Silas had Emery in there, or had found another girl who would bend over for him. I was about to walk away, when I heard Silas.

His low grunts added to the symphony of sounds, and I felt drawn to the masculinity he exuded. My traitorous mind offered me an image of myself kneeling in front of him, the same noises pouring from his mouth.

I shoved the thought away, refusing to allow myself to be turned on, having enough difficulty resisting Silas as it was. I scurried to the kitchen, the distance allowing me to push all sexual thoughts of Silas aside.

I reached for a banana, before deciding against it and grabbed an apple instead. A yogurt finished off my breakfast and I went back to my room to change, grateful the living room was now silent. It didn't take long for me to slip into the tank top and form fitting shorts I used for training and I was soon exiting my room again.

Silas' door swung open and he walked out with purpose, followed closely by Emery. He brought her to the front door as I made my way to the most open area in the living room. I swung my arms, starting my daily stretching that Cade had insisted I do on my own time.

He held the door open for her and I chuckled, amused that he would ask her to leave so quickly. She stopped in front of him, shooting me a smug glance before placing her arms around his neck and kissing him deeply, pressing her body tightly against him. He kissed her back, but I noticed he didn't wrap her in his embrace, as he had when we kissed.

She finally pulled away from him, releasing him from her grip. He watched her casually as she breathed heavily. She looked back to me, flashing a bitter smile. I smiled back at her sweetly before Silas ushered her out.

"That girl is needy." He sighed when the door finally closed behind her.

"Then why do you put up with her?" I leaned to the side, stretching one arm over my head and then switched sides.

"Because she's easy and I can't be bothered to find someone else. But, with you filling your room with the sounds and smells of ecstasy every night, of which I am not invited, although perfectly willing, to partake, I need someone to help me fill the need you so frequently leave me with."

Color blossomed in my cheeks as I realized what he was telling me. I had always suspected that Silas could all but see what I did every night, but now I knew for sure. Embarrassment stole my words from me and I stayed silent, instead focusing on my stretching and bent forward to touch my toes.

I heard Silas chuckle in amusement. From my downward position it was easy to see behind me when I opened my eyes, although everything was upside down. He sat behind me, on the opposite side of his usual spot.

"What are you doing?"

He looked around in mock confusion.

"Sitting?"

"But why there? You usually sit on the other side." It wasn't really a big deal, but Silas seemed to have a routine in the morning and rarely strayed from it.

"Ah, yes. Well, this spot offers a much better view," he purred.

I looked away from him but forced myself to finish my stretch, knowing that straightening up in embarrassment would amuse Silas as much as anything else. I heard him stand, followed by his light footsteps, causing my stomach to flutter. He stopped behind me, bending to press his hands to my leg, one on the inside of my thigh, the other by my ankle.

My heart skipped a beat at the contact and I tried to swallow, finding it difficult in my position. I couldn't deny that the heat of his fingers against my skin felt amazing, but I stopped myself from sinking too much into that feeling.

"You'll get a better stretch if you move your foot here," he spoke calmly, betraying nothing of his true intentions. He shifted my foot out an inch farther, although the actual difference was barely noticeable. It was obvious in the low, satisfied growl that rolled through him that he was doing this for his own benefit, more than mine.

In a show of self restraint, he strightened and stepped away from me, although I had no doubt where his eyes would still be directed. As he added distance between us I thought of the night we kissed, and how he had backed off that day as well.

Since then, I had been curious as to why he had done it, when he could have taken things further instead. I didn't get much of a chance to ask him, the search for Dodrick making everything a little too hectic. But with no sign of him, things had calmed down a lot. It was eery how, after only two weeks, everything had gone back to normal, almost as if Dodrick never existed in the first place.

"Thanks," I muttered as I stood up. Turning to face Silas, I watched him awkwardly as I tried to decide if it was a good idea to ask about the kiss.

He could tell I wanted to say something, but didn't break the silence as he leaned backwards on the couch.

"Silas, I wanted to ask you something…I've wanted to ask for a little while, but it never seemed like a good time…" I stuttered through my sentences.

"Yes?" He encouraged.

I paused, biting my lip as I thought of how to phrase it.

"The other night…when we…kissed…" I looked up at him to see the slightest hint of a smile tugging at his lips. "Well, I was just wondering why you stopped." I breathed a sigh of relief, glad to finally have the question out there.

"Is that your question? Why did I stop?"

"Yes. You can't pretend you didn't know you had complete control over me in that moment."

"I know I did."

"Then why stop?" I felt my confidence growing as we spoke.

"Would you rather I had taken you right then? Bent you over the desk and had my way with you?" He shifted his hips.

My heartbeat sped as I thought of what he was asking, mostly able to acknowledge that this was not what I wanted. But there was a small part of me that I couldn't quite convince. I shoved that part deep, and locked it away.

"I don't mean to say I'm not grateful that you stopped. Just that I want to know why."

He sighed, resigning himself to the conversation.

"I made a promise that I wouldn't try to seduce you. At least not in that moment. I didn't mean to break that promise. I guess I kind of got away from myself."

"But, you didn't break it," I offered, surprised at his reasoning. "I'm the one who kissed you."

"Yes, and while I'll take any excuse to feel those soft lips of yours on mine, we both know that wasn't how you intended it. I shouldn't have taken advantage of the situation, of you. So, I stopped."

Silas knew something he had wanted for weeks was right at his fingertips and he walked away. All because he didn't want me to be taken advantage of. My heart warmed.

'Maybe he has real feelings for you.' Cade's words replayed in my mind.

Silas only stopped his advances for my benefit. Maybe Cade was right.

"What else?" Silas asked. He was creepily good at knowing when I had something on my mind. I didn't bother trying to deny it.

"Someone told me a little while ago that you might have actual feelings for me."

"Did Cade tell you that?" I nodded and he smiled at me. "He asked me the same thing."

I waited for an answer, feeling the tension build with each passing second.

"Well, do you?"

He was completely quiet as his dark eyes watched me intently, his breathing barely noticeable.

"You're really getting value out of this whole honesty arrangement, aren't you?"

I gulped. I knew what his response implied, but it wasn't an answer.

"So are you," I threw back, thinking of all the times I was made to answer awkward and embarassing questions.

"Yes, I suppose I am." He chuckled, the sound originating from deep within him. "I'll tell you what I told Cade. It's nice having someone here when I come home, someone to casually say goodnight to, to silently read beside. I like having you here. If you want to call that 'actual feelings', by all means."

I stood frozen in place, forcing myself to concentrate on my breathing. One breath in. One breath out. I hadn't expected Silas to feel anything other than carnal desire for me. Even when I was asking the question, I never truly considered that the answer would more or less be 'yes'. I wasn't sure what to do with this revelation. Did this change anything? I didn't think so.

"Okay." I squeaked out, all other words escaping me.

He smiled, taking slow, hungry steps toward me.

"Don't mistake me, Makara. I still want you in my bed, and I will continue to try and get you there. I am drawn to you and I will settle for nothing less than you bare and begging underneath me while I familiarize my cock with your warmth."

He stopped in front of me, teasing the skin on my arm as he lightly ran his fingers down from my shoulder. I clenched my teeth, afraid of what noises I would make if I allowed my mouth to open. He leaned in close, his lips almost touching my ear. I couldn't move away from him. I wasn't even sure that I wanted to.

"I know one day your desire will be too much for you to resist and you will happily suck and bounce on my cock. On that day, I will feed myself to you and split you apart as I enter you, worshipping your body until I'm covered in your juices."

My phone dinged and I jumped, startled out of whatever trance Silas had me in. I released the breath I didn't realize I had been holding and pulled my phone from my pocket. I quickly glanced at the screen, then back at him as he smirked at me, backing away slowly with nostrils flared.

"One day, Makara," He promised before disappearing into his bedroom.

I took a deep breath, steadying my shaky legs.

Opening the message from Cade, I screwed up my face in confusion.

"Find me."

Chapter Text

"Find you? What does that mean? Are you lost?" My fingers flew over the screen as I texted my response.

"We're working on your tracking."

"My tracking? That's usually focused around following scent trails."

"Yep."

"How am I supposed to do that when I'm not shifted? I can only smell things marginally better than the average human, definitely not enough to track you."

"So don't use your nose. I left you a clue, figure it out."

A disgruntled grumble escaped me as I read his last message. How did he expect me to find him without anything to go on? Thinking back over his messages, I tried to figure out what his apparent clue could be.

Over the last two weeks, training had basically gone back to normal. Cade had taken me back to the cliff a few mornings, each time pushing me to climb a little bit faster. When we didn't go to the cliff, we were sparring, both in the training room in the basement, and a few times, the outdoor courtyard.

He often challenged me, and he had long since left behind any reservations for me getting hurt. But he had never asked me to do something that I was outright unequipped for.

Taking a cursory glance around the suite, I searched for any indication of Cade's clue. It was unlikely he had left anything in here, so I quickly gave it up as futile. Not believing I had any other options, I decided to check Cade's suite.

When the elevator didn't open right away, I opted for taking the stairs. It was only one floor down, the stairs were probably faster anyway. Rapping on the painted wood of his door, I admonished myself for being so stupid. It wouldn't be a challenge if he were in his suite the whole time.

The handle turned under my pressure, surprising me as it clicked open. Peeking in, I saw the room was empty, as expected. My curiosity distracted me momentarily, having never been in Cade's suite before. It was the same basic style and size as Bash and Tal's.

An urge to snoop through his drawers and cabinets crept in on me and I fought it off, resolving to only snoop as much as I needed to find his clue. My attention brought back to the task at hand, I inspected the room for anything that seemed out of place.

Sighing, I raised my hands in frustration. Everything seemed to belong. No picture, no lamp, no cushion offered any indication of answers. Just as I was about to give up, something caught my eye. Turning, my gaze focused on the small wolf figurine carved into black soapstone that sat inconspicuously, blending in almost perfectly to the dark color of the, otherwise completely bare, coffee table.

A memory of Cade telling Tal he planned to put the little wolf on his night stand flashed through my mind and I rushed over, kneeling beside the table, grasping excitedly at the smooth stone. It didn't belong here. Inspecting it closely, I looked for any hint of where Cade could be. There was nothing different about the figurine, no note attached to the bottom. A quick search around and underneath the table revealed similar results, nothing helpful.

"What the hell kind of clue is that, Cade?" My frustration caused me to spit the words into the air.

Sitting back on my haunches I tried to decipher the mystery in front of me. My mind was almost completely blank and having only one idea left, I decided to take a shot at it, not sure what else to do.

The door closed with a familiar click behind me. Taking the stairs down another floor I quickly found the suite I was looking for, tapping lightly on the door. It swung open right away.

"Makara!" Tal stepped out to hug me.

Stepping back, I could see she looked excited, but she bit her lip to keep from speaking.

"This is going to sound strange," she watched me as I shifted my feet. "But Cade set up this weird training thing and I think I'm supposed to talk to y-"

"I knew you would figure it out!" She squealed, squeezing her hands together before grabbing my arm and pulling me into her suite.

A small smile crept over my face as I realized I had come to the right place. The clue in Cade's suite was meant to lead me to Tal.

"Cade swore me to secrecy! I wasn't allowed to say anything until you asked me directly!" She explained, dashing off to a shelf on the far side of the room. "Here's the next clue." She handed me two slips of paper. "But don't ask for any hints, because I'm not allowed to say."

My mouth opened to speak, but she cut me off.

"Shoo, shoo, he's timing you. Off you go." She hurried me out the door. "Good luck, Makara," She said as she closed it behind me.

Shaking my head, I smiled at Tal's youthful enthusiasm. Of course Cade wouldn't make it so easy that Tal would be the last stop, ideally telling me where to find him.

Opening the first slip of paper, I stared excitedly at the golden letters and numbers that looked back at me, knowing exactly where this clue was leading me.

Running back up the stairs to Silas' suite, I didn't waste any time barging into the library.

"B-24, P32." My fingers ran over the smooth wood of the shelves as I hurried to row B. It was a pretty easy system to follow, A referring to the first row, B to the second and so on. Quickly moving down the row, I read the numbers on the spine of each book, pulling out number 24 and flipped to the page specified on the paper.

"A map of the forest, now we're talking." My muttered words disappeared into the silence of the room as I looked at the map, finally feeling a little closer to finding Cade.

The second slip offered a similar code, and I suspected it would help narrow down my search. Clutching the first book, I moved to find row F, not immediately noticing that E was the last one.

"Shit." Re-examining the clue, I noticed a faint letter 'M' in the top corner of the slip, almost as if someone had written it in pencil and then erased it. Looking over the first slip I found it also had a letter, the letter 'S'.

It clicked immediately and I raced down to the first floor. Cade had never gotten around to showing me the main library, nor had I had the opportunity to visit it myself, but it wasn't hard to locate the big double doors. Pushing through the doors, I forced myself not to stare in awe at the sheer number of books presented before me, remembering Tal had said Cade was timing me.

Finding my way to row E, I hurried along, pulling out the book corresponding with the clue and turned to the specified page. The image of the Lechenaria appeared in stark contrast to the white background of the page.

Making the connection, I searched the map for where the Lechenaria patch had been, grumbling when I couldn't find it. The publication date of the book containing the map made it obvious why. It had only been published eight years ago, and according to Cade, the Lechenaria had been extinct for twenty.

Tucking the book with the flower back on the shelf, I took the map with me in search of someone who could help. Henry was in his usual spot, peering over the top of his book and watching the passersby from his chair around the corner from the lobby. He smiled as I walked up to him.

"Makara," he greeted me. "Lovely to see you again. How can I help you?"

"Hi, Henry." Showing him the map, I plopped into the chair next to him. "Cade's got me doing this training thing and I need to find him using clues he left me. I remembered you said you picked your Lechenaria yourself and I was hoping you could tell me where the patch used to be. I have reason to believe that's where I'll find him."

"Of course, of course." He took the book from me, launching into a story about the day he had picked the flower and the care in which he had selected the perfect one. Smiling, I refrained from prompting him to go faster. He was just an old man who enjoyed the company and he was helping me, so I let him speak. "Look at you, listening to the ramblings of an old man." He chuckled, patting my hand lightly. "You don't have time for my silly stories." Opening my mouth to reassure him that I loved his stories, he cut me off, pointing to an area on the map at the edge of a clearing. "This is where they used to grow, beautifully framing this field. It made it perfect for picnic dates with someone special." He handed me back the book and winked at me, making me blush.

"Thanks, Henry. I really appreciate the help. Again." Scurrying out the door, I didn't bother to bring the book back to the library. Opting instead to save some time and bring it with me.

The trees blurred as I ran by them, only pausing to check the map to make sure I was still going in the right direction. When I noticed the clearing up ahead I slowed down, not sure if I would find another clue, or Cade. Trying to walk as quietly as possible, I scanned the area for any sign of him.

Hearing something behind me, I started to turn. Not quick enough to beat him, Cade hooked his leg around mine, knocking me to the ground. Twisting to land on my back, I clutched the book to my chest, hoping to protect its clean pages from the dirt. Pain momentarily seared through my back and head as I didn't quite manage to avoid hitting it against the ground.

"Took you long enough." Cade spoke, ignoring the fact that he had just hit me from behind. Knowing it wouldn't do any good to mention it, since according to him it's my job to guard against such surprises, I let it go.

"What are you talking about? I found you pretty quickly considering how you sprung this on me."

"If you say so." He extended a hand, but I waved him away.

Getting up, I followed him as he walked into the clearing. It looked significantly smaller than it did on the map, and although Henry had implied it had once been a beautiful field, there was now nothing but dirt covering the ground. It looked more like a fighting ring than the perfect picnic location.

"How exactly does all that improve my tracking anyway? If I'm trying to find someone, it's not like they'll leave a trail like that."

"There's always a trail. It's just a matter of whether or not you're able to find it. Sometimes it's easier, sometimes, nearly impossible, but you've got to start somewhere. Ready?"

"Ready for what?" His question caught me off guard. He looked at me, silently answering my question. "You want to spar?"

"Well you found me so quickly, right? That hardly constitutes a workout." The slightest hint of a smile tugged at his lips as I looked at him, a gesture he rarely graced me with.

"Fine." Still holding the book in my hands, I looked around for a safe place to set it, biting at my lip when I couldn't find one. An idea crossed my mind and I spoke before I had a chance to dismiss it.

"Take off your shirt."

"What?" Cade looked back at me, completely surprised and confused.

"I need somewhere to put the book."

"Put it on the ground."

"There's no grass, it'll get dirty if I put it on the ground."

"So it's okay for my shirt to get dirty?"

"You can wash your shirt. We can't exactly wash the book."

"You're the one who brought it out here, take off your own shirt."

"I can't, the bra's built in. If I take off my shirt, the bra comes off with it."

"And that's my problem?" He watched me defiantly.

Glaring at him, I tried to measure his sincerity. Not willing to damage the book, I tucked it between my legs and grabbed the hem of my shirt, weighing the options. Either he was bluffing, and would stop me before I got too far, or I was about to pull my shirt off, leaving my chest bare to Cade's eyes.

"Alright then." Taking the gamble, I confidently lifted my shirt.

"Wait!" He stopped me when I had made it most of the way up my midriff.

Dropping my shirt, I attempted to hide my triumphant smirk and watched as he tugged his shirt over his head.

"Thank you." While it hadn't been my intention to spar with a shirtless Cade, being truly concerned about the condition of the book, I certainly wasn't complaining about the view. Distracted by the way his muscles flexed with his movements, I shrieked when he tossed the balled fabric at me.

"Hey!" His scent flooded my nostrils as the shirt blocked my vision, covering my face completely. My hair crackled with static as I ripped the obstruction away and I brought my hand up to flatten the unruly strands. This time, he did smile. Although, I nearly missed it for the pull his chest seemed to have on my gaze.

Laying the shirt on the ground off to the side of the clearing, I placed the book on the soft surface and folded the shirt over, protecting it from the dust I knew we would kick up.

The next few hours passed quickly. Cade had been right, pain was a better teacher than fear. He still, nearly always, got me on the ground, or in some submissive position, but I was definitely improving. It took him longer each time and I managed to evade or block a lot of his attacks. Not usually completely, but enough to make them glancing blows.

Grunting with each contact, I unleashed strike after strike at Cade, getting increasingly frustrated as he easily blocked each one. Every opening I thought I saw drew me in, tempting me to aim at the presented weak spot, only to have my hopes dashed when Cade swatted away my fists like flies.

Having enough of my futile onslaught, Cade slammed the heel of his hand into my shoulder, starting my body in a lopsided turn. Instantly, my other hand flew up to try and regain some stability and Cade grabbed my wrist, controlling the spin his attack had sent me on, forcing my back to him. Wrapping his other arm around my shoulders, he sought to immobilize me. Forcing myself to concentrate on a way out of this position, and not the hard, nearly naked body pressed against my back, I jabbed my elbow, that he had surprisingly left unrestrained, into his ribs, making him groan and loosen his arm.

Immediately following the impact, I yanked my wrist out if his grasp, aiming to get in another shot to the likely sore rib. Turning towards him as best I could, my body still held tightly against his, I focused the extra momentum into my strike.

Seeing my intention Cade stepped forward, his strong arms stopping me from making the necessary movements to regain my balance; I could do nothing but cling to him as I fell to the ground.

He didn't seem to care that his actions caused him to tumble as well. With one knee between my legs and his weight on top of me, he managed to pin both my hands between us, held tightly with one of his own, bracing himself with the other beside my head.

Laying on the ground looking up at him, I fought to catch my breath, feeling a familiar pulse run through my core as his gaze bore back into mine. His nose twitched in recognition, but he didn't say anything, and he didn't move. It seemed as though he was taking longer than he strictly needed to lift himself off me. It had seemed like that a lot lately.

Sure that I was imagining things, I usually brushed the thought away, but now it was pretty clear that it wasn't just in my head. It occurred to me that, while I wanted to win a sparring match one of these days, I rather enjoyed being so close to Cade, helpless to whatever whim he decided to act on. Not that he had acted on any, if he had them at all. Losing to Cade didn't bother me one bit, so long as we continued to end up in similar positions, with his body pressed against mine.

Silently scolding myself, I tried to stamp out the dangerous thought. Cade was supposed to be the safe subject of my fantasies, the one I didn't have to worry about spilling into real life. My mate was still out there somewhere, and I planned to find him as soon as I met my wolf. No good would come out of falling for Cade and I would just be making things more difficult for myself, adding another person to my list of temptations.

"We need to work on your offense." Cade's words snapped me out of my head, drawing my attention back to reality. "Don't let yourself get so caught up in your attack, that you miss your opponent's."

Nodding my understanding, I once again walked a line between relief and disappointment as he released my hands, the muscles in his shoulders rippling when he pushed himself off the ground.

Accepting his extended hand, I let him help me up and set to work brushing the dust from my clothes and hair.

"Do you know why you weren't able to hit me?" He asked. Looking at him questioningly, I waited for him to tell me. "Your attacks are predictable. It was always left, right, left, right, and always aimed at my chest, diagonal from whatever fist you were using."

"It wasn't that bad, was it?"

"You didn't land a single punch."

"Well, no, but I did land that elbow jab, and I made you lose your grip on my shoulders. That's still pretty good." He shrugged dismissively. "Come on, Cade, you have to admit that I'm improving."

"I don't think I do."

"You don't think I'm getting better?" The question came out as more of an accusation as I got defensive. He shrugged again. "Alright, I'll prove it. I'll make you a deal."

"What kind of deal?"

"If I can knock you down, demonstrating what should be my obvious improvement, you have to take me somewhere."

"I take you lots of places."

"No. Not somewhere to spar, or climb. Somewhere fun."

"Like a date?" He asked in a tone of voice I couldn't identify.

"Sure." My stomach leapt and my mouth formed the word before I truly comprehended what he had asked. "Whatever. I don't care what you call it. Just somewhere I've never been, that has nothing to do with training."

"And if you can't do it?"

"Then you're right and I'm still as terrible as I ever was." Watching him debate the options, I hoped his ego would force him to take the bet, if only for a chance to say 'I told you so'.

"Fine," He said confidently after what felt like a lifetime of waiting.

He quickly settled into his stance and I eagerly mirrored him, taking a deep breath to prepare myself, my thoughts now clear and controlled.

My heart pounded as I waited for him to make the first move. He ran towards me, and I sunk into a slight crouch, implying that I was bracing for the impact. As soon as he got close enough for me to touch, I side stepped him. My movement wasn't fast enough to avoid him completely, but just fast enough to drop my hand, putting me in the perfect position to grab a fist full of the fabric of his pants and what I hoped was the soft flesh of his hidden cock.

He balked as I gripped him, trying to pull out of his attack. For stability, my other arm wrapped around his back and he tensed as I closed my fist, squeezing gently. Not hard enough to do any damage, but enough to notice.

It happened so quickly that he wasn't able to stop his momentum all together, and I pushed my body weight into him, using the combined force to send him to the ground. Making sure he wasn't able to contort himself and miraculously land back on his feet, I flung myself down with him, straddling him as he lay stunned on his back, my fist still wrapped around him.

Waiting for him to speak, I released my grip and pulled my hand away, but didn't get up, wanting the fact that I had succeeded to sink in before I did. My breath grew heavy and my body heated as I felt him pulse between my legs, slowly growing as his cock clearly preferred the change in contact between us. It hadn't been my intention, but there was a new reason I didn't want to move now.

With his eyes closed, he slowly panted, taking deep breaths through his nose and I thought I felt him just barely buck his hips into me, quickly convincing myself of the contrary.

"That's cheating," he grumbled, not opening his eyes.

"No it's not. It's your fault for not protecting against such an obvious weakness," remembering his words from a few weeks ago, I parroted them back to him, smiling as he opened his eyes to glare at me. He brought his hands up to my hips, the conflict in him obvious as he growled in frustration. Strong fingers dug into my skin as he squeezed before lifting me off of him and sitting up.

"I wasn't expecting that."

"That's kind of the point."

"Why should I take you anywhere when you cheated?"

"I told you, I didn't cheat. All I had to do was knock you down. You didn't set any conditions on how I was to go about doing that. Using the logic YOU taught me, I win, fair and square."

He turned my direction and I smiled sweetly at him, both of us still sitting in the dirt.

"Be ready at eight."

Chapter Text

I admired my reflection in the mirror, turning to get a rear view of my jeans, happy with what I saw. I had been ready for nearly an hour, but it was almost eight and I wanted to have one last look before Cade picked me up. He had wrapped up training as soon as he agreed to take me out and I had spent the remainder of the day restlessly waiting.

"Come in," I shouted in response to the soft knock on my door.

Silas poked his head in the room.

"I was hoping to speak with you, if you've got a moment."

"Sure." Turning away from the mirror, I sat down on the bed, watching as he stepped fully into the room.

"As you know the committee meeting is in two days." I nodded my acknowledgement. The committee meeting had been looming over me, making me nervous as I knew it was only a matter of time before I would see Rodan again. "I would like you to attend with me."

"Is that okay? I'm not an Alpha, a Beta, or pack elder. Isn't that usually who attends these things?"

"Yes. But an Alpha can invite anyone they wish as long as they can justify their involvement in the meeting."

"And you can justify my involvement?"

"You deserve a seat at the meeting. Your parentage alone puts you right in the middle of our politics. You were the intended Alpha of your pack and even though that didn't work out, you still should have been entitled to a prominent role. You didn't get that there, but you will get it here."

He kept mentioning that, but had yet to tell me what it meant. Any questioning only resulted in 'that depends greatly on you' or 'in due time, Makara.'

"Besides, the committee should know that you've come to live with my pack."

"You mean I'll have to tell everyone what happened?" I blanched at the prospect of explaining what happened with Rodan to a room full of important werewolves and Vampire ambassadors.

"How you came to live here is your story to tell. You can provide as much or as little detail as you'd like, but they will question whether this change will have an effect on each pack's well being, as well as on the status of our treaties with the vampires. You'll have to assure them there's no threat."

The idea sunk in and I nodded, resigning to the fact I didn't have much of a choice.

"Do I have to be prepared for anything else?"

"No. They won't likely call on you for anything other than that."

Releasing my held breath, I sighed in relief.

For the first time since he had been in the room, he ran his eyes down my body. I was surprised he had managed to last so long, but chalked it up to him being distracted by the committee meeting issue.

"Where are you going looking like that?"

"I'm not sure, actually. Cade's taking me somewhere because I was able to knock him down."

"That's no small feat. This is the outfit you picked for this excursion? One that would make any man drool? Do I need to be worried that you're trying to seduce Cade?"

"Jealous of your son, Silas?" I avoided the question while failing to see how my jeans and casual, yet tight fitting t-shirt could have such an effect.

"Never. You'll still be coming home to me." He stated confidently before sliding back out the door.

My phone pinged before I had time to dwell on his statement.

"Meet me outside."

I ran off to do just that, shouting a quick 'see you later' to Silas as I headed out the door.

Cade was leaning against a modest SUV when I came outside.

"What, Henry was busy tonight?" I poked at him.

His eyes wandered across my body, although much more subtly than his father's had. Excitement rose up in me and I stamped it down, scolding myself yet again for the indulgence.

"Henry drives for my father for pack business. This isn't pack business."

"So it's personal then?"

He remained silent, answering my question with an awkward shrug, foretelling of how the drive would go. I tried to keep the casual chit chat going, refusing to let an uncomfortable silence settle over us. If Cade noticed my constant rambling, he didn't mention it, but kept up his side of things with well placed grunts and the occasional one or two word answers.

"So where are we going?" I asked excitedly, hoping to quell my curiosity.

"Wait and see."

"Oh, so it's a surprise? This really is a date then?"

"Your word, not mine."

"Actually it is yours. From earlier today, in training."

He spared me a fleeting sideways glance, but kept quiet, refusing to dignify my statement with a response.

"Am I at least dressed appropriately?" I knew I was, judging by his own outfit, but wanted to draw him out of his stubborn silence.

His eyes repeated their earlier inspection and I fought back a satisfied smirk, trying to convince myself I was uncomfortable under his scrutiny, failing terrifically.

"Yes," he murmured quietly as he pulled off the road.

I hurriedly watched out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of tonight's attraction. He parked amid a small sea of cars and ahead of us, I could see a glowing building, lights pointing in all directions, and music streaming audibly through the door as other patrons entered.

"A bar?"

He ignored the obvious question, and started towards the building leaving me to scramble after him.

A few gazes settled on us as we pushed through the door, some lingering longer than others, but eventually everyone turned back to what they were doing.

I gawked at the people before me, realizing almost instantly that this was an all species bar. Somewhere everyone was welcome, regardless of individual prejudices.

There were many wolves, and I pegged them right away as a wandering pack. I had heard my father talk about them before. They traveled a lot, never staying in one place for more than a few weeks. Their Alpha's were selected from among the smartest and strongest of their number, and they did not use heirs to determine succession. These packs were often dangerous as there were constant challenges for the superior status.

I found our own system as a settled pack to be much more civilized. An Alpha could only be challenged when their succession became inevitable, but before they took control and the Warriors swore their new oaths. Once this was completed, with the entire pack there to witness, any challenge was considered treason, a crime punishable by death. The only other way to issue a legal challenge was with the blessing of the pack elders, and only in extreme circumstances. But, it had been more than three hundred years since the elders had granted such permission.

I resolved to avoid the other wolves if I could. They were unpredictable.

"Cade, those are vampires!" I exclaimed as I caught sight of two women at a nearby table. "I've never met a vampire before!"

"And you won't. Not tonight. Those two keep to themselves and I've seen them draw blood from people who bother them."

"They're vampires, isn't drawing blood kind of what they do?"

"I don't mean with their fangs, for food. I mean with their spoon, for entertainment. Trust me, they're trouble, all of them."

Panic swelled in my chest for a moment as I realized something, pushing my pounding heart into my throat.

"Vampires can hear as well as wolves can't they?"

"Normally, yes." Cade chuckled as my eyes widened in fear and embarrassment. If their ears were as good as ours, they would have heard everything we just said. "Don't worry," he started, putting me out of my misery. "With all the noise, you'd basically have to be right beside someone to hear anything they said."

Sighing in relief, I understood that he was right. There was barely an inch between us and I still had to shout over the music and the droves of broken conversation that floated in the air.

"Come on," he urged, motioning me toward the bar. He ordered us each a drink and since I didn't normally partake, I didn't question his selection. We waited in an awkward silence as the bartender prepared our drinks.

Cade paid and the awkward wait became an awkward walk as we found a table at the back of the bar. The music was quieter here, but I was still confident we wouldn't be overheard.

My mind wandered to the events of the day. Silas admitted to having feelings for me and invited me to the committee meeting and I realized Cade wasn't as safe of fantasy as I had originally thought.

"You were right about Silas," I told him, suddenly feeling as though talking about anything else would be next to impossible. I took a swig of the brown liquid in my glass, wincing at its strength as it burned my throat.

"I know."

Words escaped me but I managed to offer him a straight lipped smile, knowing that I had failed in making it look sincere.

"Is that a problem for you?" He asked, noticing my expression.

"I just feel bad. He's done so much for me and I don't feel the same way."

"But you DO want to fuck him."

"Ugh, I should never have told you that," I complained in annoyance, losing control of my filter. "If I can't even control how I feel about Rodan, how can I be expected to control it for anyone else?"

"Rodan?" Cade questioned, eyeing me curiously.

Anxiety welled up in me at his reaction. I hadn't meant to say anything about Rodan and now Cade was probably horrified at my revelation. Panicking, I stuttered to explain before Cade could say anything else.

"Like I said, it's not like it's within my control, and nothing has happened with Rodan, but I keep dreaming about him, and Silas, and…well it doesn't matter, but I'm just really confused and overwhelmed about the whole thing, like I don't know what's wrong with me or why I want to bed the most inappropriate people in my life."

"So you want to fuck Rodan too?"

"No! I don't want that. There was an…incident with Rodan the night you guys came to get me, and ever since then, when I think about what happened…don't judge me!" I nearly shouted at him, his confused and surprised expression making me feel vulnerable and defensive.

"I'm not judging," he reassured me, and I felt oddly comforted. "What sort of incident do you mean?"

He listened quietly, tensing slightly as I told him.

"It's kind of the same situation as with Silas in that my body seems to want it, no matter how much my mind protests against the idea."

"You don't find that strange? You're inexplicably attracted to two Alphas, even though one's your brother and the other's twice your age."

He sipped at his drink.

"Of course I do," I didn't let on that I hadn't made the Alpha connection on my own. "But there's nothing I can do about it. My only options are to resist, or give in, and since I don't actually want to sleep with either of them…" I trailed off, thinking the ending was obvious.

"Does Rodan know? Is that why you left?"

"Silas seems to think he does and that's the reason he backed off, but I'm not sure. The incident is part of the reason I left, I really pissed him off and I didn't think I could come back from that. But I didn't realize my own feelings until Silas delightedly pointed them out to me. I guess I was in denial."

"At least you don't have to see him anymore."

"I'm still so mad at him for everything he and Rune kept from me and I can't help but feel like punching him right in his smug face, but I don't know, there's something else now too. Rune treated us both like shit, just differently, so we were really all each other had growing up. I almost miss him."

"What about your mother?"

"She died when I was a baby."

"What happened?"

"Rodan's mother challenged her for Rune when he broke it off with her. He had just found his mate, but she thought that because they had a baby son together he should be with her instead. My mother was already pregnant when she was challenged so she had to wait until I was born before she could accept. She killed Rodan's mother in the fight, but died of her own wounds not long after. They were too substantial to heal." The story came out robotically, rehearsed from dozens of accountings over the years.

"I'm sorry to hear that,"

I shrugged. I had been barely a month old when she died, I had no memories of her.

"What about your mom? She was Silas' true mate, wasn't she?" Since the first time he took me climbing he'd been more conversational, at least when I was the topic. I hoped to get him to open up more about himself.

"She was. But she also died when I was very young." He didn't wait for me to repeat his earlier question and delved right into what happened. "It was not long after my father had taken up the mantle of Alpha. My grandfather died the year before when a vampire clan raided. We were traveling to meet with the head of the clan who had offered us restitution, as well as the promise of a treaty. Silas was trying to prevent any raids from happening again. They were getting frequent and becoming a problem."

He finished his drink and it reminded me of my own chilled glass clasped tightly in my hand.

"On our way, we were attacked by hunters, humans who think we're an abomination to whatever God they believe in. There was eight of them. They killed both Bash's parents and my mother before Silas realized what was happening. They managed to injure four of them before they went down though, severely enough that they weren't a threat anymore and Silas took one out as he attacked me, having already knocked out Bash. The other three ran off. Silas tracked them down and brought back their heads."

"Wow. That's intense." I mumbled quietly, feeling slightly guilty for bringing up something traumatic.

"It was wasteful killing filled with hate." He smiled solemnly.

"Did anything ever come out of it? With the humans, I mean."

I knew Silas had still managed to treat with the vampires. He was the reason a vampire ambassador sat in all our meetings and one of us in all of theirs. It comforted one species to know the other wasn't planning something nefarious on a large scale. To meet in any significant way required the presence of an ambassador. Failing to notify the other party of an intended meeting was considered an act of war.

"No. The humans are too numerous and disorganized to treat with. Most of them don't even know about us, and the ones who do are either indifferent or afraid. Silas got his justice that night and washed his hands of it. Hunters haven't been a problem since."

"Is that how you got your scar?"

"Yes."

"So that's why you didn't want to talk about it before?"

"You mean when I caught you staring?"

"I was not staring at your scar!"

"What WERE you staring at then?"

He chuckled as colour rushed to my face. However different he was from Silas, he was also much the same. He was playfully amused at my discomfort, enjoying having put me on the spot. I flicked my balled napkin at him in response and he laughed again.

I was glad to finally see another side of him. One that was more open and trusting. I felt proud to be able to put a smile on his face, and enjoyed the way it softened his features.

The conversation got lighter after that and his smile and laugh became almost permanent fixtures and I decided I liked spending time with Cade outside of training.

He showed me a pool table and I challenged him to a game. We had one at the estate and it was one of the few things Rune had actually let me do, so naturally, I destroyed him, leaving him pouting and rolling his eyes.

"Are you going to the committee meeting?" I asked him. Silas hadn't mentioned who else would be there.

He hesitated before answering, watching as a group of four young looking, male vampires took up cues at the table beside us. They glanced between us, and I smiled at them, trying to be friendly, hiding my excitement at being so close to meeting a vampire due to Cade's trepidation.

"Yes," Cade started, turning his attention back to me. "I am, why?"

"No reason. Just that Silas asked me to go to talk about the whole switching packs thing and I was wondering who else was going.

"Oh," he replied distractedly, looking back to the other table. I followed his gaze and saw the four guys talking in a circle, stealing glances at us and winking when I made eye contact with any of them.

Finally the boys separated, going about their game like nothing happened.

"Is Bash going?"

"Yes. And Bridger, Axis, and two of the elders from our pack," he answered, satisfied that the vamps had had their fill of whatever they thought was so interesting.

Since our first meeting outside of Silas' office, I had learned that Axis was Silas' lead enforcer. Elders were wolves over the age of eighty five. There weren't many of them, but they were revered as extremely wise and resilient. Their presence at the meeting would be accepted without question.

"That's quite a few people. Do you happen to know who will be there from Rodan's pack?" I asked shyly.

"You mean other than Rodan?" He bent down to take a shot.

"Yes, other than Rodan." It was my turn to roll my eyes.

"I'm not sure. I don't even know if he's chosen a Beta yet, or if he's sticking with Rune's. If he's made a decision on that, he hasn't told anyone."

I was nervous of who would be there. Sure it was Rodan and Rune who had set me up, but at least some members of the pack had to be in on it for it to work. It was those pack members who were most likely to be in attendance and I wasn't sure how I was suppose to face anyone.

The table beside us burst into rambunctious laughter and all the guys looked over to us in turn. I jumped as Cade slammed his cue down on the soft felt of the table, coming to stand directly in front of me.

"We should go." His tone didn't leave any room for debate, and the way he twitched his ears and clenched his teeth told me he knew something that I didn't.

"Okay," I managed to stutter out, fear rising up slightly in my stomach. "Just let me use the bathroom, I'll be right back." I hadn't noticed my full bladder until the most inconvenient time, per usual. He didn't try to stop me, but I noticed that when he stepped aside, he placed himself between me and the vampires.

Hurriedly making my way to the bathroom, I made quick work of relieving myself and washing my hands before exiting again and scanning the room for Cade, becoming increasingly panicked the longer I went without finding him. It didn't escape me that the vampires were gone as well.

"You lookin' for that wolf you were with earlier?"

I turned to face the person who spoke, a husky, grey haired wolf with a beer in his hand.

"Yes, have you seen him?"

"Them vampires was askin' him about the cute shewolf he was with, trying to get him to introduce them. Then they were gone."

"Gone? Gone where?"

"Don't know. Them fuckers are fast."

I rolled my eyes, annoyed that he had implied he knew where they were. At least he had given me one piece of information, Cade was definitely with the vampires, or at least he was a minute ago.

I rattled off a thank you and bolted outside, hoping to find them there. It took me a moment to notice him standing by a storage building on the other side of the parking lot. Cade had his back to the building, not quite up against it, and the four vampires were standing around him.

I could tell they were talking, but I was too far to hear anything. Cade had his feet apart, his hands tensed by his side. I knew that look. He was prepared for a fight. My heart began to race with adrenaline, he was outnumbered and I was terrified to think of what truly little help I would be if he needed it.

I knew what he was thinking, we had talked about it before. If you were ever outnumbered, a good way to gain an advantage, however small, was to surprise them and attack first. You might get a few good hits in before they realize what's happening. I silently begged him not to do it. Vampires were strong and fast and Cade was by himself out there.

I started towards them, willing to offer whatever help I could. Cade glanced in my direction and each of the vampires moved to see what he was looking at. I knew that to have his opponents look away like that was an opportunity Cade wouldn't miss and I called out for him as he launched himself towards the closest one.

"Cade!"

Chapter Text

With my blood pounding in my veins, I ran towards them, hoping to make it there before I was too late. In a second, everything changed as there was a blur in front of me. Everyone froze as they took in the scene. A fifth vampire had appeared, intercepting Cade's lunge at his brethren. I stopped just outside the semi circle of vampires and could clearly see that the newcomer had Cade pinned against the wall of the building, his big hand positioned on Cade's shoulder, his thumb fingering the soft skin of his neck.

The strange vampire was larger than the others, larger than Cade, although not by much. His black hair stood in contrast, even against the darkness of the night.

There wasn't much keeping Cade still, in terms of restraints. Only the pressure from the vampire's single handed grip held him in place, his other hand extended behind him in a signal for the other vampires to back off.

Cade's chest heaved as we all waited, wondering what would happen with morbid curiosity. He stared at the vampire in front of him openly, and I watched for any hint of what we should do. There was an expression on his face I couldn't place, surprising me that I couldn't immediately attribute his twisted features to fear.

He gulped as the vampire removed his hand, eliminating the intimidating skin to skin contact he had on his throat. Cade didn't move, still frozen by the larger man's proximity.

"Get in the van, boys." The man spoke, his deep voice cutting through the night air. Although he never looked away from Cade, it was obvious his words were meant for the four other vampires.

He hissed as one of them began to protest, turning to face the offender without stepping back from Cade.

"I said, get in the fucking van."

They skulked off into the parking lot with mumbled complaints.

"Cade?" I called to him again, still not exactly sure what was happening.

The vampire turned his gaze to me and this time I could place his expression quite easily, confusion. I was baffled. Having never met him before, I could see no reason for his reaction.

He turned back to Cade, leaning in close to whisper something in his ear. Cade listened, but didn't reply and after a few moments the vampire backed away and was gone.

Cade groaned in frustration, running his hands over his face and through his hair. His anger overwhelmed him and bubbled over, manifesting in the swing he took at the wall. I knew from the sickening crunch that he had broken his hand, but it would heal quickly enough.

"Do you want to tell me what that was all about?" I asked, still confused as to how things had gotten so out of control in the short time I had been in the bathroom.

"No." He started marching toward the SUV, clearly done with the night, and I ran to keep up with him.

"I was being polite by phrasing it as a question." He ignored me, back to his usual charming self. I reached out to grab his arm, he shrugged me off but still stopped to look at me. "Cade, what the hell happened?"

"Exactly what it looked like. They wanted to take turns with you and when they found out that wasn't going to happen, they wanted a fight."

"Are you saying they were going to rape me?" I asked, surprised by the crassness of it.

"They explained it as 'aggressively suggesting' that you service them, but, yes, basically." He continued his march to the vehicle and I followed quietly behind him, an uneasy feeling pitting my stomach.

"They're vampires, Makara," he started when he noticed me. "They do whatever they want. Try to avoid them whenever possible."

I nodded as I got in the vehicle, but had a hard time believing all vampires were like that.

"What about the one who wasn't in the bar? What was that about?"

"Can we just drop it?" He sighed. "You're fine, I'm fine, they're gone. Do we need to keep talking about it?"

He pulled out of the parking lot, glancing between me and the road, waiting for my answer. I didn't know why he was defensive about it, but I ended up deciding he was right. There was nothing to worry about now, and he had had a hard enough time already. I wouldn't make him talk about it if he didn't want to. Resolving not to bring it up again, I hoped he would come to me when he was ready.

"Okay."

His shoulders relaxed visibly as he let go of his tension. I watched him. He never looked, but I knew he saw me, I didn't care. If what he said was true, and I had no reason to believe it wasn't, he had nearly gotten himself killed to protect me.

I reached out to grasp his hand, sitting lazily on the center console. He flinched at the surprise contact, but didn't pull his hand away.

"Thank you," I told him sincerely, truly appreciating that he would go to such lengths for me.

He looked over, eyeing me before giving me an almost imperceptible head nod of acknowledgement.

The rest of the drive and the walk into the hotel had been almost completely silent. But not like the silence from earlier in the night. Where that silence had been awkward, and created pits of desperation driving you to search for the next topic of conversation, this silence was easy and comfortable.

We walked into the elevator and I pressed the button for each of our floors. I barely noticed as Cade sniffed the air, used to his nose picking up things mine couldn't.

"Can I give you some advice?" He questioned before stepping through the, now open, elevator doors.

"Sure,"

"Try not to punch Alphas." He got off and the doors began to close behind him. Just before they sealed shut, he turned and spoke again. "Or fuck them!"

I chuckled. I had noticed that Cade would only joke around if he was comfortable with you, and I was happy that he felt I met that criteria.

I tried to concentrate on the vampire free portions of the evening, finding that I was even less confident in Cade's fantastical safety. I thought back to whether or not we decided to call it a date. Although we hadn't outright labeled it, it had all the makings of one. All, that is, except for the goodnight kiss. I closed my eyes and pictured what it might have been like. Would it be like in my dreams? Or would kissing him be something different altogether?

I startled and threw my eyes open when the elevator dinged, bringing me back to reality. After everything, I had to accept that I was attracted to Cade, but I didn't need to make it any worse by imagining us together.

Training had always been somewhere I didn't have to worry about my traitorous body. How much more difficult would it be to ignore now that my safe haven was gone? Everywhere I went, it seemed that someone would wear down my resistance, picking away at it with every stray thought, dream and flirtatious comment.

Rubbing my face and eyes, I tried to think of anything else as I left the elevator and walked towards Silas' suite. I heard a door open and close in front of me. Had I been paying attention, I might have realized this was odd, considering Silas was the only one on this floor and I was still quite far from our door.

"Makara?"

I recognized the voice and pulled my hand away from my face to see him. A quick look took nearly all the moisture from my mouth as it hung open just slightly. I froze as pieces of my dreams flashed through my mind, a collage of skin and hands and lips. My face instantly flushed and I gawked from the top of his exposed chest to where his swim trunks sat low on his hips, displaying a delicious amount of treasure trail.

He smiled at me knowingly and I knew my scent filled the air.

With a struggle, I reigned in my thoughts. He was the last person I had expected to see at that moment, so I had been unprepared for the onslaught of feelings. I forced them back, which left room for anger, tempered by the sadness that accompanied it.

I immediately understood Cade's advice. He must have caught his scent in the elevator. Don't punch him, don't fuck him, thanks for the warning, Cade.

"Rodan," I managed in a steady voice, in no way betraying my pounding heart. I didn't know what else to say to him, and didn't want to stick around for the awkward silence. I had told him it would take more than an apology to fix things between us and I wasn't willing to act so casually, like nothing had happened. I spun on my heels, marching to Silas' suite without looking back.

I fumbled with the door in my haste to get inside, relieved when it finally swung open. Silas was walking out of his bedroom. His chest was bare and I frustratingly wondered if anyone around here had heard of a shirt. I pushed the sight aside, refusing to be distracted.

"You knew he was here," I accused, standing in front of him, blocking his way to the kitchen.

"Who?"

"Rodan," I answered, even though I was positive he knew exactly who I was talking about.

"Oh, yes, I did. He arrived early. It's not unusual for committee meetings."

"Well thanks for warning me, Silas. I really enjoy being blindsided in the hallway," I threw my sarcasm at him.

Not letting him respond, I moved past him towards my bedroom, noticing for the first time that Emery stood nearby, wrapped in a shirt obviously much too big for her. I rolled my eyes. It would have taken her just as long to put on her own clothes. I reasoned she had only chosen Silas' to mark what she thought was her territory.

Closing the door behind me, I pulled out my phone.

"You could have warned me." I hit send on the message to Cade.

"Didn't I?"

Annoyed, I tossed my phone aside.

Exhausted by everything that had happened today, I wasted no time in stripping off my clothes and climbing into bed, content to pretend I had complete control over everything in my life.

I stood alone in a room. When I looked around, I could clearly see that it was my bedroom at the estate. I could feel my bed against the back of my legs, soft and beckoning.

A figure appeared in front of me. Like so many of my previous dreams, it had no solid form, instead, flowing freely between the forms of Rodan, Silas and Cade with each blink. I watched with curiosity as the most recent shift revealed someone else. I could see him standing clearly in front of me, but to describe what he looked like was an impossible task, each detail of his appearance fleeing my memory almost as soon as I took it in. The most I could say was that he seemed incomplete, as though I knew him, but only as a stranger in passing.

I squeezed my eyes shut and when I opened them, the unknown man was gone, now wearing Cade's face as he stalked towards me with an uncharacteristic, mischievous grin.

Licking my lips in anticipation, I felt the hunger for him build with each step he took. He kissed me greedily and wrapped his arms around me, pressing me tightly against him. When he pulled away, Silas looked back at me, running his hands down to my hips. He lifted me easily and tossed me backwards onto the bed.

Throwing my head back, I remembered the night we met, feeling the similarities as his weight was on top of me again. He ground his hips into mine, kissing my neck and chest. When I finally looked back at him, Rodan smiled, trailing his lips slowly down my body.

The figure continued to fluctuate between the men as he worked his way lower, no longer waiting for me to close my eyes. I watched him intently, nearly shaking with need. He settled between my legs, kissing each of my inner thighs gently. My breath came in panting bursts, and I raised my hips, seeking the contact my body seemed so desperate for.

I wondered briefly about the strength of my desire, strong enough to make me completely indifferent to going from one man to the next. My dream self thought nothing of loyalty, moving easily, and happily between them.

He hooked his arms around each of my legs, holding me in place, exerting his control over me. My heart pounded as he dipped lower, making a teasing swipe of his tongue over my most sensitive area. I whimpered, instantly disappointed with the lack of contact.

He didn't leave me long without the wonderfully foreign feeling of his tongue. He enjoyed himself, taking his time exploring my folds, lavishly licking up my juices. His actions did more to build my desire than it did to help me reach my release, chosen specifically to torture me wonderfully.

Grunting with frustration, I lifted my hips, losing control as my need to cum took over all sane thought. Taking mercy on me, he gave in, sucking my clit into his mouth and teasing it with his tongue. The sudden shock made me arch my back and I rocked my hips into him.

Moving one of his hands, he palmed my chest, pinching my nipple, before reaching down to add a finger to the ministrations between my thighs, sliding it easily inside me. I moaned underneath him, feeling the intensity increase exponentially.

Within minutes, I was at the edge, abandoning any semblance of rhythm as I moved to draw his finger deeper inside, bury his face more completely. He sped his movements, worked more aggressively, sending electric pulses of pleasure through my body, all originating from my core, bursting until I tumbled into orgasmic bliss.

The strength of it sealed my eyes shut and dug my fingers and toes into the soft bed below me. He continued, completely undeterred by my wild bucking, forcing my muscles to tense under the heightened sensitivity of my dripping sex.

He relented, and it took longer than usual for me to come down from the peak. The first thing I noticed when I opened my eyes was that I was back in my room at the hotel, the dim light from the window casting familiar shadows.

Feeling gentle lips on my inner thigh, I looked to find Rodan still perched between my legs. I thought it was odd, I usually woke up as soon as I came, but I watched him anyway, waiting for the unusually beautiful sight of the figure shifting from one form to the next.

The edges of his shape remained sharp, never blurring or distorting. He stared back at me, smiling deviously. His lips shined with the evidence of my excitement and a satisfied growl rumbled deep in his chest as he licked his finger clean.

This wasn't right. I never got to see the aftermath of my sexual adventures. The longer I looked at him, the more anchored in reality I felt. An uneasiness crept into me and I jumped when Silas came bursting through the door. A panicked thought occurred to me immediately.

I wasn't dreaming.

Chapter Text

An angered roar tore through Silas and I looked back to Rodan just in time to see him smirk before Silas pulled him away from me. Rodan's back hit the wall so hard, he threatened to go through it, wooden framing be damned, and Silas held him there with a thick forearm stretched across his collar bone.

If it caused him any pain, he didn't show it, instead looking at the older man with an air of superiority, mustering it from some unknown place. A fearsome growl came continuously from Silas, and Rodan didn't push things any further, leaving his hands to hang loosely by his side.

I watched the exchange as if it were a movie playing out, feeling drastically separated from everything that was happening. It couldn't be real, there was no way.

"Did he enter you?" I heard Silas ask, but I didn't register his words, staring wide eyed at the scene in front of me. "Makara!" He snapped for my attention.

"Huh?" I managed, focusing my gaze on him.

"With his cock, did he enter you?" He repeated impatiently. Rodan could have told him, he would know better than I would. Instead he just glared daggers into the side of Silas' head and I could tell his own anger was quickly building.

"Oh, umm…" I stuttered as I tried to assess myself. Would I feel something if he had? I didn't have anything to go by, but didn't notice anything different. I only felt the disappearing whisper of my explosive orgasm. "No." It sounded almost like a question.

Suddenly exceedingly aware of my nakedness, I drew the blanket up from where it had been tossed aside and clutched it to my chest, draping it easily over the rest of my body.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Silas turned his fury back to Rodan.

"It's rather obvious, isn't it?"

Silas slammed his flat hand against the wall, inches from Rodan's ear, before pointing a stern finger in his face.

"I would advise against toying with me, I'm not in the mood."

"What's wrong, Silas? Do you have a problem with me tonguing Makara's cunt? Or is the problem that I got there first?" Silas was silent and Rodan smirked. "I did, didn't I?"

"The problem, is you being in my suite in the middle of the night."

Rodan chuckled, but ignored him.

"You made your intentions pretty clear during our phone call. You've had weeks with her, and you still haven't managed to do what I did in a day."

Silas rolled his arm forward, pressing it tightly against Rodan's throat.

Rodan kept his smile plastered on his face, but fear flashed in his eyes for a fleeting moment. His breathing became slightly heavier, almost as if each puff were more difficult than the one before. Whether this was because of his mental distress over being in such a vulnerable position, or the physical restraint constricting his breathing was unclear.

"Be careful what you say, Rodan. You may be an Alpha, but you are young, and weak and you're making crushing your wind pipe look very tempting."

Rodan's lips turned up into a snarl and he snapped back at Silas, his voice raspy, and strained.

"You're welcome to try. But if I survived while Makara was suffocating me between her spasming thighs, I doubt you'll have much luck."

I blushed as he spoke, but I knew neither man's attention was on me, each too angry with the other to pay me any mind at all.

Silas dropped his arm from Rodan's throat, not even giving the younger man enough time to feel relief before replacing it with both his hands. Silas gripped him tightly, digging his fingers into his neck and squeezed visibly, making his fingers red with the effort. I always knew Rodan's smugness and goading would get him into trouble.

Rodan pawed at Silas' hands, trying to get him to release his grip. Instead, he leaned closer to the breathless man.

"You think you're above the consequences of your words, but you should know that I do not make idle threats." Rodan made as if to speak, summoning nothing but a strangled murmur. "Not one person would care if I killed you right now. So why shouldn't I?"

From the smile on his face, I knew Silas meant what he said. He would kill Rodan without another thought.

There were many times in my life that I had wished Rodan dead, particularly in the last few weeks. But now, faced with it, watching it happen and truly realizing what it would mean, I was terrified. I didn't want that.

"Silas!" I called out, suddenly panicked that I had acted too late as Rodan began turning a sickening shade of purple.

Silas looked at me, but relinquished none of his hold on Rodan. I shook my head at him, silently begging him to stop. He huffed and clenched his teeth, but begrudgingly dropped his hands to his side.

Rodan hunched over, sucking in air, taking breath after gulping breath. He touched his throat where I could still see the marks from Silas' fingers and I knew the area would be tender.

"Get out of my suite," Silas growled through his teeth. There was no mistaking who he was speaking to, although his eyes were still trained on me.

Rodan straightened up, bringing his breathing back to a slight pant. He looked between Silas and me for a moment, before walking calmly out the door.

Silas watched me, completely silent and unmoving until we heard the front door open and close.

"Makara," he began, walking closer to me, much more casually than I would have expected. "Can you please explain to me what I've just walked in on?"

I barely heard him, finally having a chance to replay the last few minutes through my head, trying to grasp the idea that Rodan had just assaulted me.

"What exactly would you like explained?"

"Why don't we start with why you would bring Rodan here in the middle of the night?"

"I didn't. I-"

"Don't lie to me," he snapped. "It's not the first time I've walked past your room to hear your lips moan his name, or mine, or Cade's." He looked at me accusingly and I felt instantly guilty. He knew of my feelings for him and Rodan, but up until this moment I had thought that knowledge of my attraction to Cade had been my own.

"Sila-"

"But never have I heard it paired with the savage slurping that you allowed to get you off."

Taken aback by the venom that dripped from his words, I lashed out at him.

"So you think I invited him here for sex?" He waved his hand in front of him as though that was the only obvious conclusion. Wrapping the blanket tightly around me, I stood and walked to the edge of the bed, not willing to let him make me feel small by looking down on me. "You've gotten hard to the idea of Rodan and I fucking, what makes this so different?"

He took another step towards me, placing his hands on my hips. I was about half a head taller than him in this position, but that didn't seem to matter as he pulled me against him. He nuzzled his face into my neck, sending delightful shivers throughout me, and inhaled my scent. I could feel his warmth even through the blanket.

I took it for what it was. He wasn't being sweet, he was proving he still had a modicum of control over me. He could make me feel dangerous things for him, even when I was angry.

"I get hard to the idea of you as a sexual being in ANY capacity," he whispered sultrily into my ear. "But I will not have Rodan come into MY home and take what is mine from under my nose."

I pushed him back, stifling the small rebellion my body put up against the action.

"But I'm not yours, Silas. And I'm not his. I'm just mine. Free to give myself to whomever I'd like."

"And you'd like to give yourself to Rodan?"

"No. I don't want that. I want my mate."

"So you're saying you didn't open the door for him? How else could he have gotten in here? I locked the door when I walked Emery out and I would have smelled him if he was already in the suite."

"I don't know. Okay? I woke up with him between my legs seconds before you came through the door. You know as much as I do."

He stared at me, measuring my sincerity. The muscles in his jaw twitched as he clenched his teeth, working them against each other in his deliberation. Seemingly satisfied, he left with a quick, subtle nod of his head.

Alone with my thoughts, I sank down onto the bed, a torrent of emotions running through me. I hadn't expected him to leave so quickly, but I used the opportunity to try to make sense of everything, hoping that it wasn't real. Maybe I was still dreaming, and would wake up any second. I chuckled bitterly at the thought, if only I was so lucky.

I heard Silas in the other room, like he was talking to someone. The lack in response made me guess he was on the phone.

What was Silas' problem anyway? He had been consistently excited with the concept of Rodan and I together. But now, having been witness to it, he seemed to take it as a personal offense. I got the feeling that Silas wasn't being completely honest about his reason for being so upset. Trespassing seemed rather low on the list of things I would expect to rattle him. I wondered briefly if this had anything to do with his admission of feelings for me, but quickly brushed away the idea. Just last night he had thought the idea of Rodan and I amusing enough to spring his arrival on me. I didn't see how that could change in such a short time. It was definitely something else, and I was determined to ask him about it the next chance I got.

With that seemingly resolved for the time being, my thoughts turned to Rodan. Despite what had happened the night I came to the hotel, I never thought he could actually do something like that. Not that the act itself was the problem, my body was still humming with delight for the experience. But all my life I had been controlled, having no choice in what I did, or anything that happened to me, and now, I was once again forced into what somebody else wanted.

My eyes squeezed shut, and I felt a distant urge to cry. I was just assaulted by one Alpha, and yelled at by another. That was enough to reduce even the strongest of wolves to tears, but the tears wouldn't come.

I wasn't hurt, and I couldn't even say that I hadn't enjoyed what Rodan did, at least physically. But I was mad, and my anger burned away my tears before they ever formed.

Grateful for the small, private moment, I resigned myself to the fact I would have to deal with this at some point, and begrudgingly folded back the layers of my blanket cacoon to find some clothes. I dressed quickly and reached for the door, steeling myself with a deep breath.

"I'm sure he wanted to, but no, everything's fine."

I opened the door just in time to hear Silas' words and watch him disappear down the hallway to his office, Bridger trailing closely behind him.

I strained to hear them, my curiosity taking over when I realized I was too far. Tiptoeing down the hall, I stayed as far away as I could, while still being able to make out their conversation, disappointed that I had already missed some of the exchange.

"You're taking a risk by waiting, Sir."

"Yes, I am, a calculated one. The way that I handle this will have an effect on the rest of my life, I need it to go my way. This is the ideal path, and I won't stray from it if I can help it."

A chill crept over me. I didn't know what they were talking about, but it gave me an uneasy feeling anyway.

"You might not have a choice."

"I know." There was a pause, and I almost panicked as I thought they might be onto me, relaxing when Silas continued to speak. "I don't want him anywhere near her, at least not when she's sleeping, and unsupervised. While he's here, you'll make sure he doesn't get to her again, sleep on the couch if you have to."

This part was just as confusing as Silas' initial anger with me, but I at least understood they wanted to keep Rodan away. Everything else they had said might as well have been in another language for all the sense it made.

"I don't mean to be presumptuous, sir, but wouldn't I be able to protect her more effectively if I were closer? Say, in her room, maybe?"

My eyes widened and I was busy thinking of all the ways I could tell the Beta to go fuck himself when I heard Silas chuckle.

"Sure, you could try. But you'll have a hell of a time convincing her. If I thought she would agree to have someone guard her from inside her bedroom, I would be doing that myself. Trust me, the couch is the closest you'll get."

"Yes, sir. But I urge you to reconsider your choice of timing." I strained harder, hoping to gain some clarity. "You may call it calculated, but I call it unnecessary."

Silas growled in response and there was a distinct lack of retaliation from Bridger.

"Find out how he got in here. I won't have my own home be so insecure."

"Yes, sir," Bridger repeated in what seemed like a slightly louder voice. It took me a moment to realize he wasn't getting louder, he was getting closer.

Heart in my throat, I willed it's pounding beat to slow, knowing they would be able to hear it if they simply listened. I moved as quickly and as quietly as I could in my desperation not to get caught, relieved when Silas called the Beta back. He must have been speaking louder to cover the new distance between them, because I could hear him perfectly from my new, farther, position.

"Check all the keys. Show me yours." There was a pause while Bridger presumably showed Silas his key. "Good. Cade and Bash each have one, and the cleaners have two between them."

However inconspicuously I had managed to pose, I still didn't want to be seen here. It wouldn't take much for them to realize that I had heard them and I didn't really want to explain myself, slightly embarrassed by my actions.

Bridger would leave right away to check the keys, Silas wouldn't allow it any other way in his quest for answers. And as soon as Bridger was back he would be like a constant shadow, never letting me have a moment alone with Rodan. I couldn't let that happen. Suddenly, I knew exactly where to go, needing some answers of my own.

"Doesn't Emery have a key as well?"

I barely heard Bridger speak as I slipped out the front door, closing it gently behind me. I leaned backwards on it for a moment, trying to gather my courage, and calm the fluttering in my gut.

The hallway was eerily quiet, free of the hectic drama of the night. The chaos of my emotions swirled around me, making the air thick and my head light.

My feet seemed to carry me down the hall on their own, and I grew more nervous the closer I got. I moved quickly, in case Bridger came out and caught me, surprised that he hadn't already. He would tell Silas what I was doing and I would be dragged back into the suite and probably never left alone again.

Rounding the corner, I faced my intended target with determination, working to control my heart beat, steadying it with a few deep breaths. My knuckles rapped on the painted wood and I tried to ignore the urge to run away.

I waited what I thought was more than enough time before I started to turn away, not sure if I was disappointed or relieved. Just as I took my first step, the door swung open and Rodan stood there, watching me. He was shirtless and I could still make out the red lines from Silas' fingers, however faintly.

I clenched my jaw as all nerves and desire to flee drained from me. The moment I saw him, I felt only one thing, anger.

We stared at each other silently for a moment and he eyed me up and down before stepping aside, motioning past himself with a wave of his hand, inviting me in.

Chapter Text

I walked past Rodan and heard the door click shut behind me. He didn't have a suite and my eyes were instantly drawn to the large bed. There was nothing special about it, but, being the biggest thing in the room, it seemed to invite me closer, distracting me from my anger and mocking my resistance.

He moved towards it and sat on the plush surface, putting one leg up and leaning against the headboard. He scratched his bare chest absent mindedly before allowing his hand to settle low on his stomach, hooking a thumb casually into the waistband of his pants. My mind, ever the traitor, urged me closer to him, offering me an image of his pants on the floor.

Focusing on my anger, I gave it control, forcing the obtrusive thoughts away, refusing to let my resolve break so easily. I let my rage grow. It engulfed me and licked at my insides like a fire consuming dry wood, until I could picture my own hands wrapped around Rodan's throat.

Panic flooded me as I realized what a bad idea it had been to put myself alone in a room with Rodan. I was liable to hurt him, or bed him and I wasn't sure which was worse. Why had I done this to myself?

Oh right. Bridger. After tonight, I wouldn't get a moment without him, he would follow me around, hovering over everything I did. That's why I was here. I needed to confront Rodan by myself, free to say whatever I wanted.

He watched me as I worked to control my emotions. The fact that I had managed to keep any evidence of my internal struggle hidden pleased me a great deal.

"Did you want to say something?" He asked, his patience having seemingly evaporated.

I glared at him as he spoke, willing his lips to seal shut, as I was finding it difficult enough to maintain my composure without his input.

I started to pace, the repetitive movement helping to relax me. I probably looked crazy, but I didn't care.

Finally feeling like I had a good balance between angry and calm, I turned to face him.

"What the fuck, Rodan?" I blurted, instead of the carefully planned reprimand I had prepared. He eyed me quizzically, shrugging his shoulders as if he didn't know what I was talking about. "Why would you do that?"

"Because I haven't been able to stop thinking about doing it since the night I had you against my wall." He stood from the bed, walking over to stand in front of me.

I thought about the implications of his statement. Rodan wanted me as much as Silas did. Why did it have to be so complicated? I could resist my own unwanted feelings much easier if he didn't want me back.

"So because YOU want something, it has to happen?"

"Typically, yes." I blinked, flabbergasted at his arrogant remark, but he kept talking. "You weren't complaining in the middle of your orgasm. Are you trying to tell me you didn't enjoy yourself?"

"Whether I enjoyed myself or not is irrelevant. I didn't want it."

"I don't believe you." He smiled.

"What?" I blinked again. Who was he to tell me what I did or didn't want.

"I don't believe that you didn't want it," he repeated. "I scented you the first time that night in my office, then yesterday in the hallway, and once again when I entered your bedroom. My name was on your lips the second I walked through that door. You want me, Makara, whether you like it or not. You can't hide that from me." He took a step closer to me, brushing an imaginary strand of hair behind my ear. "Even now, your intoxicating scent greets me, distant, but definitely present." His mouth stretched into a sultry smirk before he moved past me to pour himself a drink.

I flushed as he stripped away every piece of security I'd thought I had, suddenly very thankful that he couldn't see my face. I'd thought I had done better at disguising my feelings, or pushing them away.

"And that doesn't seem weird to you? This...desire…that we both apparently share? We are siblings, after all, we're not supposed to feel that way." I tried to appeal to his sense of logic.

He turned to face me, sipping at the clear liquid in his glass, and leaned back on the dresser behind him.

"You worry far too much about 'suppose to', Makara. What you're supposed to do, who you're supposed to fuck. Isn't it tiring? Wouldn't it be easier to do whatever you wanted, just because you wanted to? Seize life by the balls once in a while and enjoy the feeling of a tongue on your pussy or a cock inside you, regardless of who the appendage is attached to."

"Yes, it would be easier. But what would stop me from descending into debauchery? Goddess knows I'm surrounded by far too many sex fueled men to rely on them for any kind of moral restraint," I snapped at him. "Is that what you want for your sister, Rodan? For me to end up in the bed of every wolf who points a hard dick in my direction?" I spat the words at him, hoping to shock him into understanding, or at least into silence.

"Sure, if that's what you want, and as long as one of those beds you end up in is mine, why not? Fuck one wolf, fuck a hundred, what's the difference? In fact, why don't you start with Silas, he seems a bit wound up."

I bore my eyes into him, noticing that his last statement left him a bit more tense than before. I watched him as he downed his drink, setting his empty glass on the dresser with a noisy clink. It offered a small glimpse into his true feelings on the matter.

"So you would have no problem if I left right now and jumped into bed with Silas?" He shrugged dismissively. "Why then, did you get so defensive when he made the implication we had already been together? I know you remember the phone call I'm referring to, you brought it up back in my room."

"That was a matter of principle, he had made me very angry. My defensiveness, as you call it, had everything to do with him and nothing to do with you, and I'm getting much better at controlling my anger."

"So now you don't care?"

"Nope."

"Because all you want from me is sex?"

"Not true."

"Okay, you want me to go for anything I might desire, consequences be damned. Which just happens to include fucking you."

"Right."

I fumed. How could he be advocating so adamantly for me to do what I wanted, and then brush me off so easily when I tell him I didn't want his tongue on me.

"So why won't you listen to me when I tell you I didn't want you slobbering all over me?"

"Because there's a difference between what you think you want, and what you actually want."

"No, Rodan, there isn't! There's no difference! And you're not the one who gets to decide what I want!" I raised my voice at him, getting tired of him controlling the conversation.

"Makara, get a hold of yourself, you're acting like a child." He pushed himself off the dresser.

"Am I? I'm not throwing a tantrum over a bowl of ice cream, Rodan. You ASSAULTED me!"

"And yet, you never asked me to stop."

"Had I been conscious, I would have! Or more specifically, you never would have gotten that far. I've been deflecting Silas' advances since I got here, I'm sure I could have handled yours!"

"You seemed to enjoy yourself well enough."

"Yeah, it was amazing," My mouth blurted sincerely before consulting my brain on the decision. "And I'm so angry that I can't say I hated it, but that's not the point." I stomped over to him, poking a finger aggressively into his chest. "You took my choice away. Again. You've ALWAYS taken my choice away, you and Dad. I'm so fucking tired of being controlled by other people. Hit on me all you want, but you had no right to take from me something that I wasn't offering!" He made as if to speak, but I wasn't done and thrust my hand in front of his face. "You say go for what I want. But what I want is to be treated like everybody else, with enough respect from my family to make my own fucking decisions, especially about who touches me and when. How do I go for that, Rodan?"

His shoulders stiffened more and more as I was speaking, and I knew he was angry. He regarded me quietly for a long moment, flicking his gaze from one of my eyes to the other. I never broke eye contact with him, breathing heavily in my frustration. Just when I was sure his anger was about to bubble over, he seemed to release his tension, sighing.

"Alright, Makara, do you want to know the truth?" I screwed up my face, nonplussed by the question, but he continued, ignoring my expression and the fact that I hadn't answered him. "When you left, I didn't expect to miss you. But I was completely blindsided by the empty feeling your absence gave me. I won't lie, my cock had a lot to do with that particular disappointment, and my balls never quite feel empty enough when I think of you, but that's not all. It's strange, not having you around, and I don't care for it."

I watched him as he spoke, my anger temporarily subdued until I knew where this was going.

"That's why I sent you that message, apologizing. I had hoped it wasn't too late to salvage our relationship, and have us go back to the way things were when we were kids. Well," he started, his voice dropping an octave and his eyes developing a devilish gleam. "Maybe a little different from the way things were. I was considering something with decidedly less clothing."

I rolled my eyes even as my core pulsed with excitement. Rodan smirked at me, but continued before I could protest.

"I was looking forward to seeing you, but you took off so quickly yesterday, we didn't get a chance to talk. That's all I wanted, at least that's all I had planned."

"So you sneak into my room? How did you even get in?"

"How did Silas get into the estate?"

I didn't answer.

"Exactly. I'm not about to reveal my secrets either."

"I guess that's fair," I replied hesitantly. "Why wouldn't you just wait until morning if all you wanted was to talk?" I tried to poke holes in his story.

"I was going to. But I was restless and couldn't sleep. It seemed like such a waste of time to wait. And I didn't expect Silas to give us any privacy in the morning. Did you want to have this conversation with an audience?"

I pursed my lips and sucked my teeth, begrudgingly admitting to myself that, although I didn't agree with the end result, his reasoning was relatively logical, and nearly identical to my own motivations for opting to see him right away, even after what happened.

"So when did talking become a euphemism for oral sex?" I asked him, still not quite understanding how things had taken a turn.

"Pretty much the second I walked into your bedroom. I wasn't exaggerating when I said you moaned my name almost instantly. I don't think I've ever gotten so hard, so fast as when I was met with your scent and your needy little whimpers."

My face reddened with embarrassment as he spoke. A month ago, this would have been the last conversation I thought I would be having with anyone, let alone Rodan.

"I tried to wake you up, calling your name, but you didn't respond, so I walked over. You had kicked the blanket off already, leaving me with, what I would have to say, was a spectacular view." He dragged his eyes over my body, no doubt remembering everything he had seen.

"And you took that as an invitation?"

"The air thick with your desire, my name on your lips and your body presented to me complete with glistening thighs? Sounds pretty inviting to me."

I sucked in a breath, preparing to tell Rodan exactly where he could stick his so called invitation, but he interrupted me.

"Before you go all psycho," he began, his hand up in an attempt to dissuade me. "I think we should agree to disagree on the morality of what we did-"

"What YOU did," I corrected him.

"What I did," he conceded with a slight nod of his head. "We won't convince each other of our views, so there's no point in wasting time trying."

I wanted to protest, but his hand made the same annoying motion in an attempt to calm me down.

"I will, however, agree to never do anything like that again. Without your express permission, that is. You're clearly upset about it and it was never my intention to hurt you."

"Well, some pretty words and promises aren't going to do anything to fix it."

"I know. That's why you should come back home, so I can make it up to you, show you how much I've changed, how much I will change. Not right away, of course. I know you've been training here and I fully expect you'd like to have a few weeks to transition back."

I stared at him for a moment, dumbfounded. Was he serious? That was his solution? Only Rodan could think of the one thing that would fix all his problems, while ignoring all of mine.

"That's your idea of an apology, to suggest I go back home? I've been free here. Free to do whatever I want, to train, to learn. Why would I go back to my cage? That offer has nothing to do with making it up to me, it's all about you and what you want. You haven't changed, Rodan, you're still as selfish as ever."

Before I could blink he was on me, pressing his advantage of surprise as he walked me backwards to the wall. He didn't touch me, but I could see by the way his hands clenched and released that it was all he could do to stop himself.

"Perhaps your right," He growled into my ear. "It would certainly be satisfying to sink myself into you. Why restrain myself but for your objection? If I'm so selfish, why should I let that stop me? You condemn me for acting on my desires, simply because you're afraid of acting on your own."

My heart raced as I searched for the words to deny his accusation, getting distracted by the tinkering I heard at the door.

"You belong at home," Rodan added before Bridger burst into the room, a set of keys dangling from the lock in the door.

The two men shared a look and I wondered briefly if one would attack the other, weighing the odds on who would be the first to throw a punch. The tension in the air was palpable, but neither of them moved.

"Everything alright?" Bridger questioned, his gaze turning to meet mine.

Rodan looked at me expectantly.

"Yes, it's fine. I was just leaving," I answered quietly, both annoyed and thankful for Bridger's appearance.

I hurried toward the door, Rodan following casually behind me. Bridger lifted his arm and let me pass through the door underneath, blocking Rodan and implying he should stay in the room.

Once in the hallway, I took a deep breath, settling my nerves. A moment later, Bridger joined me and clicked the door shut behind him.

He turned towards me and crossed his arms, his disapproval evident in his stance.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

I rolled my eyes at his judgemental tone, not appreciating the question.

"Talking to my brother," I answered defiantly, knowing full well he was looking for more details than that. I felt attacked, and I got my back up in defense.

He ushered me down the hallway with a frustrated grunt.

"How stupid are you?

"Excuse me?" I was shocked by the blunt question.

"You should never have gone to his room. At least not tonight."

"There were things I needed to say." I had never had a particular issue with Bridger before, but I didn't like the way he was questioning me. He was a far cry from the obedient Beta I had seen with Silas.

"And how well did that work out for you?" He waited for me to answer, continuing when I remained silent. "What do you think Silas would have done if it was him who caught you in there, huh? He nearly killed Rodan tonight, do you really want his fury turned on you?"

"Silas was only mad because he wants me for himse-"

"You don't know what Silas wants."

"And you do?"

"Yeah. A hell of a lot better than you do. You have no idea how much he needs you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you're an ungrateful little cock tease."

My jaw clenched in anger. I was getting tired of people assuming I was here just for Silas' pleasure.

"You don't know what you're talking about. I am not ungrateful, and I am certainly not a cock tease." I wagged my finger at him, emphasizing my point with a poke to his chest. "Silas has known from the very beginning that I have no intention of sleeping with him. I have made it very clear that I am waiting for my mate. If he decides to keep ogling me and trying to get me to change my mind, that's his issue, not mine."

It was mostly truth. The only thing I left out was that my body seemed to have different intentions than my mind did, but I decided that was none of his business. I stalked away from him, not willing to be berated any longer.

"You've earned yourself a babysitter!" He shouted after me, and I could hear him following me back to the suite.

Ignoring him, I continued on my way, closing myself into my bedroom and taking a calming glance out the window. The soft light of the early morning Sun was just starting to peak over the horizon. I sighed. My night was wasted arguing with the various men who thought they had some sort of say over what I did with myself. I was tired, but I knew I was too wound up to even think about sleeping.

Finding comfort In the few books I had in my room with me, I read until I could pretend I was as carefree as the characters on the pages.

Training continued on as normal, just as soon as the rest of the hotel roused from their sleep. It took some convincing, but Bridger finally agreed to let me train without him, but only because Cade would be there, and Bridger would walk me to and from.

Cade was already in the training room when I arrived, having successfully rid myself of Bridger back in the hallway.

"Meditating?" I asked him incredulously when he told me his plans for this session.

"Yes."

"But I wanted to punch things today." I didn't revel the idea of sitting quietly, trying to keep my thoughts from wandering, and I had been quite looking forward to taking out my frustrations on something fleshy.

"Too bad. Sit." He followed his own command, sitting cross legged on the floor in front of me.

"Just like that? We just jump right in?"

"Yep. Sit," he repeated, and this time, I did as he asked, albeit with a frustrated grumble.

I mimicked his pose, cross legged with my hands on my knees. He had his eyes closed, so I closed mine as well.

"Concentrate on your breathing. Follow it as it enters through your nose, and travels throughout your body."

Attempting this technique, it took me a few tries before I was able to trace the path of my breath. Although I did so with some inconsistency, I could feel my breath spread through my body, much the same as a hot drink leaves a warm trail down your throat.

My brain, however, grew bored of this very quickly. I was much too wound up to be doing nothing, or what my racing mind perceived as nothing. The boredom was immediately rectified with images and memories from my dream, and of Rodan's face dripping with my excitement from between my legs.

I tried to push the thoughts away, but I was quickly losing control. For every image I successfully expunged, another, more intimate one took its place. Despite my best efforts, I felt my body heating, and I was sure my face would be cherry red if anyone were looking. Determined to have some power over my rebellious body, I managed to keep my breathing steady, lest Cade hear me panting in the quiet room.

"Stop that."

I started at the sudden noise, his voice cutting through the haze of my dirty day dream.

"Stop what?" I played dumb.

"Thinking."

I opened my eyes to find his still firmly shut.

"How could you possib-"

"I can smell it."

"You can smell my thoughts?" I challenged. I knew his sense of smell was better than mine, but the idea that even my thoughts had a scent was just ridiculous.

"No. I can smell YOU. Which gives me a pretty good idea of what you're thinking about right now." He shifted, barely noticeable in his seated position. The small movement drew my eyes downward, and I swallowed as I imagined I could make out the slight bulge of a beginning erection. It was difficult to tell from what he was wearing. He could have been hard as a rock, and I would never know it was hidden under the canopy of his shirt, as the hem bunched frustratingly at his hips.

It was obvious now that he could smell my arousal, the damning evidence that my body would do whatever it wanted, regardless of my personal opinion.

"Who says I'm thinking about anything? Maybe meditating just turns me on," I tried to play it off, not sure if I was trying to convince him of the source, or myself.

Cade's eyes snapped open, and he watched me for a long moment. The playful smirk I had offered him became less confident with every second, until eventually, I was biting awkwardly at my lip.

"What's really going on?" He saw right through me. "Does it have anything to do with why Bridger walked you here this morning?"

"You don't know? Didn't Bridger come see you last night?"

"No, why would he?"

I was surprised. Cade had been included in Silas' list to Bridger. But then again, I didn't think it was Cade who let Rodan in, and I doubted whether Silas or the Beta would truly suspect him.

My stomach did turns as I prepared myself to tell Cade what happened, wondering how he would take it. Would he be disgusted? Angry?

I tried to maintain eye contact as I spoke, but often found my gaze more comfortable looking anywhere but the hard, un-telling eyes that stared back at me.

"I'll kill him," he stated casually when I was done, his jaw and hands clenched so tightly I half expected his teeth to shatter, and his palms to bleed.

I rolled my eyes. Just like his father.

"Just a few issues with that. One, he's an Alpha, two, he's my brother, and three, Silas already tried that."

"Well someone has to do something."

"And I already confronted him. Please, Cade, can you just let it go? Trust that I handled it, and it won't happen again?"

I waited for his answer. Would he be like everyone else who thought they needed to protect me, to control me? Or would he trust me, like I asked? He had never worn kid gloves with me before, and now wouldn't be a good time to start.

"Okay." He released the fists he had clenched his hands into, the effort it took visible on his face. Although I could still see the general tension that racked his body, I sighed in relief.

"Thank you."

He let me punch things after that, and we ended up staying in the training room much longer than we normally did. By the time we were done, I was exhausted and didn't even care that Bridger was waiting for me in the hallway.

We ignored each other, both silently accepting our predicament on our way back upstairs. I closed myself back in my room and flopped on my bed, fatigue quickly taking over as sleep overwhelmed me.

My eyes were shut, I couldn't open them if I tried. Someone was kissing me, their warm lips enticing mine into a dance for dominance. Hands explored my body. So many hands. Even in my kiss and touch foggy mind I counted four sets. Four people roaming over every inch of my bare skin.

My body was alive with tingles left by trailing fingers. The way they softly brushed past my nipples, wound through my hair, and delved between my legs set me on fire, and I struggled to catch my breath, the lips on mine seeming more important at the time.

I felt my phone vibrate against my leg and tried to ignore it, but opened my eyes as it vibrated again. The room was so shrouded in shadows, I couldn't tell where I was, but I could see and feel enough to know that I was now clothed, and stood alone.

Reaching into my jeans pocket, I found the cause of my drift from bliss and begrudgingly unlocked my phone screen. There were two messages from a name I didn't recognize, "B".

"You're too soon."

"She's not ready. HE'S not ready."

Without thinking about it, I watched as my fingers flew over the screen, typing a response.

"She needs persistence. I know what I'm doing."

I locked my phone again as the message sent, catching a glimpse of my reflection in the dark screen. I looked closer, surprised that it was Rodan looking back at me. I brought my fingers up to prod at the flesh of my face, wondering how I could have become Rodan.

The instant I made contact I dropped my phone, the pain that rolled through my head and hands making it impossible to maintain my grip. The agony was so intense it sealed my eyes shut, and when I finally wrenched them open, I was sitting in my bed.

Although the pain was gone, my head dropped to my hands in memory of it and I tried to lick my dry lips. My tongue was spongy and sticky and there was not enough saliva in my mouth to go around.

Dragging myself out of bed, I went in search of a glass of water, quietly making my way to the kitchen.

"Yes, sir, everything's fine. I don't think even he's stupid enough to try it again."

It seemed weird that Bridger would be talking to Silas on the phone in the middle of the night, especially when he was in our suite, but who else would Bridger call sir?

I looked around the room for him. I could see easily that there was no one in Silas' room through the open door, and I didn't hear anything from his office, not even the mumbling of his side of the conversation.

"Yes, sir." Bridger hung up.

"Where's Silas?" I asked, my curiosity over his whereabouts outweighing my distaste for talking to Bridger.

"Out."

"Can you be more specific?"

"Out on business."

"What kind of business?"

"His business. Not yours."

It was easy to see I wasn't going to get any answers out of him, so I continued to get my glass of water.

"Go back to sleep. We've got the committee meeting in the morning," he spewed his order in my direction, as I walked past him back to my bedroom.

I threw him a look that told him what I thought of his demand, but quietly crawled back under the covers of my warm bed anyway.

Chapter Text

Once again, I found myself in an area of the hotel I had never been. I knew the conference rooms were here, but had no reason to visit them until now. I sat in a large, comfy chair in an open lobby area, where each of the different conference rooms branched off of.

With my chin resting on my knees that I had drawn into my chest, I watched as familiar and unfamiliar faces filed through the wide open doors from the hallway. Bridger and Silas were greeting them, sending them into the correct room as they came in. So far I had mostly seen staff, professionally dressed in black pants and white dress shirts, and wolves from Silas' pack. There were a few I didn't recognize, and I assumed they had come with Amrita, though I had yet to see the Alpha herself.

Growing more and more nervous of who I would see, I tried to distract myself, unfocusing my eyes and allowing those in front of me to blend into a blurry sea of movement. I was gratingly aware of the conversation Cade and Bash were having directly behind me, although to attempt to follow along would have been far too much effort for my pounding head.

"Makara?" I jumped as Rodan spoke and immediately noticed the silence that fell over the two men behind me. "Can we talk for a minute?"

His gaze lifted from me to Cade and Bash, silently asking them to leave. Here in the hotel, in Silas' territory, was probably the only place they could get away with disobeying an Alpha, but thankfully, neither of them moved. The three of them waited for me to answer.

I couldn't decide. I longed to have a relationship with my brother, but I wasn't sure he was capable of what I wanted. He was selfish and impulsive and I didn't trust him.

"Boys! Makara," Silas called out grabbing our attention and saving me from responding to Rodan. Giving a quick nod he stalked into the conference room behind Bridger, and the last of the other guests.

We knew that was our cue to head inside. Rodan gave me a pleading expression, urging me to answer him before we went inside. I looked back at him awkwardly before Cade ushered me in front of him, placing himself between Rodan and I. He kept the barrier until we were inside the conference room.

Silas sat closest to the door, Bridger on his right and then Axis and the elders. There were three empty chairs to his left. He turned and motioned for me to take the one closest to him. I did so nervously, knowing that being directly beside the hosting Alpha was sure to draw some attention to me.

Movement in front of me caught my attention and I looked across the table to where Rodan was pulling out his chair, freezing when I saw the dark hair and bright eyes of the vampire who was seated beside him.

I looked to see if Cade had noticed. Surely seeing the vampire who had so easily pinned him against a building would warrant some kind of reaction, but he didn't seem concerned. He was tense, but unsurprised.

Nudging him, I motioned to the vampire with my head. Cade shook his head at me, indicating I should leave it alone. He must have already known the identity of the vampire ambassador, and didn't want me to say anything about the incident at the bar.

I huffed, wary of this particular ambassador after what happened, but I kept my mouth shut. I glanced back at him just in time to see him smirk, and look between Cade and I before directing his attention elsewhere.

Trying to keep my eyes off of the men in front of me, my gaze settled on the other Alpha in the room. She sat to Rodan's other side with a string of people I didn't recognize to her left. She had a strong presence to her, something that threatened to draw me in if I let it.

She looked fierce, not allowing the men she was surrounded by intimidate her. I caught myself briefly wondering what kind of kisser she would be, whether or not her lips would reflect the hard shell she seemed to portray. The thought was fleeting, but I wondered at it anyway. I had never been attracted to a woman before.

A part of me wanted to meet her, to really get to know this woman who thrived in a position most commonly reserved for a man. But deep down I was thankful she would be leaving after the meeting. Somehow, I knew being near her would just make me want her more, and I didn't need another person to crush on at the moment.

"Alright, shall we get started then?" Silas interrupted, standing to greet the room and drawing me out of my head. "I'd like to welcome everyone to my home and thank you all for coming. Although your stay here will be short, I assure you, you're all honoured guests so please let me know if there's anything I can do to make your visit more comfortable. But I'm sure we're all eager to get this going, so I won't waste any more time in turning things over to the Exalted." He nodded his head toward the elders sitting at the end of the table closest to me, the table just wide enough to fit the three wolves shoulder to shoulder.

What was so different about these elders to the elders from Silas' pack at the other end of the table, or the one sitting with Amrita's pack? And had he called them the Exalted?

The questions were written on my face as I turned to Cade, and he leaned to whisper quietly in my ear.

"The Exalted are no longer part of any pack, though each of them originally came from one of the three here. They were chosen by the elders of their respective packs to preside over these meetings, holding no bias and doing whatever's best for the species. They're highly respected and their position helps keep any one Alpha's greed and ambition in check."

I was surprised by his explanation. My father was an Alpha, I should have known that. It was just another thing Rune and probably Rodan had kept from me. I shook my head, wondering if the gaps in my knowledge of our world would ever be completely filled.

"Thank you, Silas," the middle of the three began. He held himself with dignity as he spoke, but you could see an underlying frailty in his movements, caused by age. "We all know each other here, so I'll skip the introductions and start by going over the agenda for today," he began, launching into a detailed list of topics. One in particular peaked my interest. Although it sounded like it wouldn't be until later in the day, before the meeting was over we would discuss the missing people, and attempt to work out a plan to find them, and prevent others from disappearing.

"Before we dive into anything, I'd like to address a few immediate concerns," he spoke again, the other two Exalted remaining eerily silent. "Silas, you seem to have a few more guests present than usual. Would you like to explain?"

"Of course. My son and nephew are here because I intend on passing on the title of Alpha to Cade within the next few years, and Bash is his intended Beta. Makara, on the other hand, has recently become a member of our pack and, due to her parentage, I thought the committee ought to know. I also expect her to hold a position of power one day, and I respect her input a great deal."

My face flushed as he complimented me.

"Is this true, Makara?"

"Umm…" I stuttered, surprised to have been called upon so early in the meeting. "Which part?" I nearly slammed my head against the table in embarrassment, my nerves calmed only slightly by the gentle smile the old wolf gave me.

"The part about you becoming a member of Silas' pack," he encouraged.

"Oh, well, I guess so." I flicked my eyes up to Rodan who watched me intently. I couldn't hold his stare for more than a moment, and quickly looked away, trying to focus my attention on the Exalted. "I moved here from the Estate a little while ago for…umm…personal…reasons, that I'd rather not discuss, if that's okay." He eyed me quizzically for a moment and I felt compelled to say more. "But I can assure you that the reasons were mine and mine alone. With Rodan taking over for my father, I don't see this move affecting anyone else."

"I would have to second that," Silas offered. "This works out rather well for everyone involved, there are no issues here."

His eyes fell on Rodan as he finished speaking. His tone, to anyone who didn't know the whole story, was pleasant and encouraging, but I heard the challenge in it. He was daring Rodan to bring up his trespassing, letting him know that as long as he stayed silent, Silas would as well.

My breath caught while we waited for Rodan to concur. If the Exalted thought this was causing any issues between the packs they might send me back. I almost expected Rodan to tell them everything, forcing his way back into my life since I wouldn't go home willingly. He might get in a bit of trouble, but so would Silas, and things would work out exactly the way he wanted them to in the end.

"I agree, there are no issues," he finally said, and I sighed in relief.

"Very well. Perhaps then, Rodan, you would care to explain why you have come to this meeting alone."

Alone? Looking around the table, I saw the truth in that statement. I had been so distracted by everything going on, I didn't even notice there was nobody else from my old pack. I wasn't sure how to feel about that.

"I have yet to decide on my Beta and Enforcer, and it's quite the distance from my pack to the hotel. I didn't think it was fair to drag any of the elders all the way out here, and none were particularly inclined to make the journey."

"It is inadvisable to attempt your Alpha reign on your own, Rodan. Even at this meeting, you will be at a disadvantage without the input and advice of a good Beta, and the analyzing eyes of an Enforcer."

"I have every intention of filling those positions, but I'm taking my time to make sure I select the right candidates. In the meantime, I trust the committee and the Exalted to make decisions that will benefit everyone."

The old wolf didn't seem convinced, but he moved on anyway. I found it hard to follow. We had been talking for nearly three hours, my headache hadn't gone away, and most of the discussions were agonizingly boring.

Amrita's Beta was arguing about some incident with Axis when I noticed a human girl, that I had never seen before, place a cold drink in front of Rodan. I looked around. Not that I wanted to see her, but I thought Emery was supposed to be serving today, and for the first time, I noticed she wasn't there. It wasn't like her to miss sharing a room with all these powerful wolves.

"Where's Emery?" I leaned over to ask Cade. He looked around the room, shrugging when he couldn't find her either.

Leaning over the other way, I repeated my question to Silas, who didn't seem particularly involved in the current topic.

"How about we talk about it later?" He asked me and dropped his hand to my knee reassuringly, making tiny strokes with his fingers up and down my leg.

I gulped, taking a deep breath and tried to ignore his movements, worried that pushing his hand away would draw unwanted attention. My body didn't care how inappropriate the timing was and I could feel it reacting to his ministrations anyway.

Cade turned towards me and we made eye contact before he glanced down to Silas' hand. He settled there for a moment and then looked back at me with a blank stare. I tried to smile at him, let him know that everything was okay, but I didn't quite manage it. I was distracted and Cade knew it. Even after everything we had talked about, it was still embarrassing to have someone bear witness to my lack of control.

He brought his attention back to whoever was talking at the moment, I still couldn't pay attention. The pain in my head was getting worse, and now the proximity of Silas' hand to my core caused my body to heat and my breath to deepen.

I looked across the table, hoping nobody else would notice the effect Silas was having on me, quickly learning what an unrealistic expectation that had been. With a wolf's nose, everyone would always know, and I suspected Silas took a certain amount of pleasure in that.

Rodan made no attempt to hide his expression as he stared at me hungrily. He mouthed something to me. I couldn't quite make out what he said, but I shook my head anyway. It was no doubt, considering the situation, something vulgar, that I should never want to hear from my brother. Anger flashed over his face and I wondered absently if I had made a mistake.

Searching for something else, anything else, to concentrate on, I glanced to the vampire, finding the same needy eyes that I had first seen on Rodan looking back at me. Shifting to Amrita gave me the same results, her own desire clearly evident on her face. It sent a pulse through me to know I had elicited that reaction out of them.

My brain must be playing tricks on me, the fevered pain causing hallucinations. I squeezed my eyes shut, regretting it instantly as images of things I was trying not to think about flooded my mind. Amrita's lips on mine, her hands tangled in my hair. Silas' fingers tracing every curve of my body. Cade's chest, warm and hard under my fingertips. Rodan's tongue, dancing over my neck and ear, and finally, the vampire, who's name I had yet to learn, staring down at me as I perched on my knees in front of him.

My heart started to race, my emotions and thoughts a twisted mess. Sounds began accompanying the scenes that were playing out in my head, drowning out all other noise. I heard a scream and trickling water and everything was dark until my hands appeared before me, covered in blood. It felt so real, almost like a memory, but it wasn't mine.

I felt nauseous and warm, too warm. There was no safe action. My closed eyes revealed nothing but teasing, or torment. But my opened ones offered much the same, as I could feel their stares burning into me.

"Why don't we break for lunch?" I heard someone say, followed by the creaking of multiple chairs. Forcing my eyes open, I realized most people were standing, and I hadn't imagined the lunch declaration.

Immediately recognizing my way out of this torturous situation, I pushed my chair back, nearly tipping it over as I practically ran from the conference room. I knew others would follow behind me shortly, aiming to stretch their legs and perhaps relieve themselves of the coffee offered during the meeting.

Some cool water to splash on my face seemed perfect right about now and I turned in the direction of the closest bathroom before thinking twice. That's where most of the attendees would probably go, and I didn't want to be around people right now, I needed to be alone. I marched to the bathroom at the far end of the hall.

"She's an Omega." A voice that sounded conspicuously like Amrita's reverberated in my ears, as clearly as if she had shouted from right beside me. But that was impossible. I was already half way down the hall and, with a quick glance behind me, I knew Amrita was still in the conference room, much too far for me to be able to hear. I brushed it off as part of the chaos swirling in my mind.

Bursting through the door, I drank in the utter silence of the room, going straight to the sink to wet my hands and face. The cool water helped to bring my temperature down, and my nausea seemed to have disappeared. The images in my head stopped as well, and I took a moment to simply catch my breath.

My phone pinged.

"Are you okay?"

It was sweet of him to ask, but I didn't feel like chatting, so I typed out a short reply to Cade before putting my phone away.

"Yes."

It barely looked like a bathroom in here, its secret only revealed by the row of sinks and giant mirror. Each toilet was enclosed in its own room, behind a fully closing door, not like the half stalls I had seen at the bar. It seemed an odd thing to notice at a moment like this, but I was thankful for the completely uneventful distraction of neutral bathroom design.

My head still hurt, and my heart felt like it might pound right out of my chest, but I had control over my breathing, and my thoughts, and that was something.

A sudden noise pulled me out of my reverie and I turned towards the door just as Rodan came barging in. He looked angry, angrier than he had been in the conference room. His rage looked like it had multiplied tenfold since I had shaken my head at him.

He didn't stop or slow down as he saw me, instead moving towards me with purpose. It was an easy task to back me against the wall. Aside from the fact that I was now very aware of the difference in the training each of us had received, I couldn't recall a time in recent memory where Rodan had been this mad. I didn't know what he would do, he had already proven himself to be unpredictable.

Once again, he didn't touch me, but slammed both his hands on the wall to either side of me, trapping me there. He dropped his forehead against the wall beside me, breathing heavily, and leaving me to look over his shoulder into the brightness of the near sterile room.

I left my hands flat against the wall and worked on the rhythm of my own breathing. I knew that he was trying to maintain his control, and his anger was like a bomb with a hairpin trigger. I wondered with inexplicably detached interest if it would explode, or if he would manage to defuse it.

He stayed there, chest heaving, but unmoving. Maybe he really had been working on his temper.

The dreamy haze of my earlier thoughts flooded me again, Rodan's proximity acting as a beacon for any image with him as the subject, despite the obvious threat in his closeness.

Having him here, close enough to touch, in such a compromising position, was eating at me. I had to fight against every nerve in my body to resist the urge to reach out, knowing I should be protesting, but feeling unable to.

For every impulse I successfully pushed away, another, stronger, force would appear, and I felt the first slip of my resolve. My head turned towards his, almost imperceptibly. He caught the movement, stilling his breathing and we eyed each other through our peripherals.

They say the first step is always the hardest, and once you get going on something, it's almost impossible to stop. I felt the truth in that statement, my head turning closer and closer to his, inch by inch, drawn by my desire, however inappropriate.

He matched each movement of mine, lifting his head to turn it towards me, but took nothing more. I was surprised at his control, but he went at my pace, coaxing me to come to him. I could practically feel his need radiating off of him, and it excited me to know I had his undivided attention.

We were so close now, that his lips tickled the corner of mine teasingly, tempting me to give in, waiting for me to cross the line.

A very small part of me was still convinced I shouldn't, that I should walk away, protect myself. But that part was easily drowned out by the blood rushing through my veins, and my heart beating a thousand times a minute.

My tongue came out to wet my dry lips, an excited pulse going through me as it swiped at the corner of Rodan's mouth as well. If I hadn't decided already, the contact would have been enough to send me hurtling over the line, and no one could have stopped me as I closed the gap between Rodan's lips and mine.

Chapter Text

He reacted immediately, deepening the kiss aggressively. His hand moved to my head, winding his fingers through my hair and using his grip to pull my lips closer, almost painfully. The urgency nearly set me aflame and my own hands found their way to his chest and waist. He grabbed at my hip, feeling the curve as he ran his hand down my leg as far as he could reach. The tension drained as we melted into each other, enjoying the warmth and intensity of the embrace.

A click of the door reminded us where we were, and Rodan pulled away abruptly. By the time he was an appropriate distance away, the vampire had joined us in the bathroom.

Rodan watched me, never looking at the cause of our disruption. I glanced at the stranger long enough to see his gaze go between Rodan and I, clearly assessing the situation and drawing conclusions. I couldn't look at him anymore, nor could I face Rodan's hard stare, so I looked to the floor, hoping for some way out of this embarrassment.

"Am I interrupting?" The vampire spoke, his words dancing through the smirk on his face.

I didn't see if he finally deigned to look at him, but Rodan spun on his heels and walked out without a word.

"What's going on?"

I ignored him as I sank to the floor, wiping at my lips, still tingling, and covered in saliva. The full weight of what I had just done hit me as the embarrassment washed away the lust.

"I was just trying you give you some semblance of privacy," he began. "I can smell as well as any wolf; I can guess what was happening here. Should I go after him? Or was it consensual?" He finished, in case I had any doubt as to the meaning of his first question.

My head fell into my hands. Maybe if I ignored the situation long enough, it would go away.

He stalked towards the door, muttering something about Alphas and their entitled nature. Vampires had no real authority here, but if there was ever a time to question an Alpha's conduct, it was now.

"Don't," I called after him, stopping him in his tracks. I knew he was going to question Rodan, accusing him of something nefarious and while he wasn't far off the mark when it came to Rodan in general, it didn't apply in this situation. Rodan would deny the accusation and he wouldn't hesitate to tell everyone present that I was the one to kiss him.

"So it was consensual then?" He questioned again. "That was your brother wasn't it?"

My cheeks lit up and I was glad my head was buried in my hands. I wanted to die. At least before today, I could say it wasn't me. It was him who did things to me while I slept, him who hinted at wanting more when we spoke. I couldn't play innocent anymore. I had kissed him. I had wanted it. I knew his proximity had played a big part, but I could hardly have changed that. It really was the same situation as with Silas, I couldn't control myself. Thankfully, at least Silas had pulled away on his own when he put me in a similar position, otherwise it probably would have turned out much the same. I didn't know how far things would have gone if the vampire hadn't come in.

I continued to ignore him, hoping he would take the hint and leave, but instead, he came to sit down next to me. I tensed as he did, unsure of his intentions.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Why would I want to talk to YOU about it?" I started, a little more abraisively than I had intended. "I don't know anything about you, except that you and your friends attacked Cade. I don't even know your name."

"Fair enough. My name's Atlar," he offered. "And for the record, they're not my friends, and I didn't attack him."

"Oh right, my bad. The way you had him pinned against the wall must have confused me."

He smiled, apparently amused by my sarcastic reply.

"I barely touched him, if you'll remember. I suppose my approach may have left something to be desired, but I managed to de escalate the situation, so who can complain?"

"Do you think Cade would see it that way?"

"It doesn't matter how he sees it," he started. There was a tone to his voice I couldn't quite place. "Things would have turned out really badly if I hadn't done what I did," he finished solemnly.

I tried to decipher the statement underneath his words.

"Are you saying they would have killed him?" The thought had occurred to me at the time, but to have it confirmed was something else altogether. My stomach clenched as I involuntary imagined Cade, broken and bleeding on the ground.

"Oh, not a chance," he easily dissuaded my dread. "It takes time for a vampire to build their strength, and those four were freshly turned. Little baby vampires, barely stronger than a human. Cade would have shredded them like paper. But there were four of them, and they could have hurt him in the process. Four dead vampires and an injured werewolf, not my idea of a good time." He smirked.

Despite the situation, he managed to drag a chuckle out of me.

"Are you guys like together or something?" He motioned to where Rodan had been standing, apparently encouraged by my half invested indulgence in the conversation.

"What? No!"

"So what was all that then?"

I looked over to him, tempted to tell him everything. Despite my first impression of him, he had an oddly comforting presence, now that we were talking. Somehow I knew I could trust him, regardless of what Cade would say. I wondered at the sanity in that decision, I had just met him after all, and I had seen him act rather questionably. But, I did truly believe what he told me. It may not have looked like it at the time, but his actions HAD protected Cade, and the vampires he was with.

More importantly, and irrelevant to how long I had known him, I thought it was better for him to know the truth, than to think I had that kind of relationship with my brother.

He smiled at me encouragingly, probably happy with the eye contact I finally made with him. I steeled myself, taking a deep breath, preparing to tell this relative stranger something so personal.

"I seem to be attracted to basically everyone. I mean, think of the most inappropriate people in my life and I apparently want to fuck them. I don't have control over it, and it sort of takes over when I find myself in…certain…situations."

"Everyone?" He chuckled. I shrugged. "Well, I already know about Rodan. Who else?"

"Silas, for starters."

"Cade?" He asked, the light in his eyes shining a little brighter as I nodded. "Bash? Amrita? The Betas? Enforcers? The elders?"

"Amrita, sort of. No to the rest." Although my cheeks flared red, I indulged him. I had gone this far, what good would it do to be shy now.

"Me?"

His question caught me off guard. I hadn't thought about it before, at least not willingly. I thought of the image of him standing above me my fevered mind had conjured in the meeting room, and then was blind sided by a flash of memory.

Atlar, standing beside Cade, almost shadowing him to my right. Silas was in front of me, and Rodan to my left, all of them nearly naked. Blinking, the image changed. A figure walked towards me, shifting between the men of my body's desire. First Rodan, then Silas, then Atlar before Cade's face appeared and disappeared, and I was once again looking at the cold tile floor of the bathroom.

Realization hit me like a punch to the face. Atlar was the stranger from my dreams! The one I could see clearly, but never describe or remember. I recalled a dream where a man's fingers had brought me release, burying into me as his weight pinned me down. I had never seen who the man was, and at the time I assumed him not to have an identity. A faceless figure I imagined simply for my own pleasure. I knew now, that the man was Atlar. I could still remember the feeling of his muscles as he pressed against me and my gaze absently wandered to his chest, searching for the hard lines from my dream.

As soon as I noticed where I was looking, I turned my head away, embarrassed that I had stared so blatantly.

I heard him chuckle again, my silence an obvious answer to his question.

"I'm so glad you're amused," I threw at him sarcastically.

"Sorry," he started, still laughing. "I can pretend to be appalled if that's easier for you."

I rolled my eyes at him, but smiled. His reaction was a refreshing change from the outright seduction attempts I was used to.

"Makara, are you in here?" Cade's voice travelled through the door before he did.

He walked in, freezing and tensing when he saw Atlar. He stared at the vampire with unease, frowning when Atlar smiled at him. After a long, analyzing moment, Cade turned his attention back to me.

"They're about to start. We should get back."

"Okay." I pushed myself up from the ground. Cade held the door open for me, and I walked past him into the hallway. I took a few steps before I realized Cade had let the door swing shut behind me, putting the two males alone in the bathroom together. I could hear murmuring through the door, but I couldn't make out what they were saying.

Annoyed, I reached for the door, startled when it swung open in front of me.

"Are you done with your private conversation?"

"Yes," Cade answered, and then stormed past me.

His answer surprised me. I was kidding when I said that, I hadn't expected their conversation to actually be private.

I looked to Atlar as he walked casually behind Cade, the question clear on my face. He shrugged and kept walking.

Pretty much everyone was already seated when we entered the meeting room, with the exception of Bash, who was loading a plate with some desserts that had been set out.

I noticed Cade had taken the seat beside Silas, leaving me between himself and Bash. He had seen Silas' hand on my leg earlier and I knew I hadn't convinced him I was comfortable in that moment. I wondered if Cade had chosen this seat on purpose, to stop Silas from doing it again, my question answered when Cade gave me a subtle nod.

I was grateful. Silas had set off a chain reaction of feelings and thoughts that I had almost lost myself in. That much desire building up with nowhere to go, surrounded by everyone who made me feel vulnerable, and having them all know exactly what I was thinking about, was akin to hell. It was overwhelming, almost to the breaking point and I didn't revel an afternoon of the same.

Walking over to the table, my nausea returned almost instantly and my head was pounding. I wondered if my headache had ever actually gone away, or if I was simply too distracted to notice.

The closer I got, the worse I felt and my vision began to blur at the edges. Suddenly aware of the structure in front of me, I leaned my hands on the table for support, dizzy and struggling to maintain my balance. A quick look around the table told me all eyes were on me, most filled with detached, but concerned interest.

Rodan and Atlar watched me from across the table with worried glances as I clenched my teeth, pain starting to manifest from every inch of my body. It was worse in some places than others and I tried to concentrate on something, anything else as my right hand felt like it was being crushed against the wood surface.

I wanted to leave, to run somewhere no one else could see me, but I didn't trust my legs. So I stood there, every muscle tensed and ready for the sting of pain. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to concentrate on breathing through it, hoping it would die down. But it continued to intensify, an aching burn combined with sharp stabs of agony.

"Makara?" Cade spoke, the concern clearly evident in his voice. Fire flared in my arm as I thought I felt his touch, but when I looked at him, he had his hands decidedly to himself and was looking at me as if I was growing horns.

My vision went almost completely black, and all I could see were the hallucinations of my mind. Silas, standing triumphantly, presenting two severed heads, held by the hair in one hand, another laying a few feet away, rocking back and forth sickeningly, as if it had just fallen. Two young boys, one with an angry gash on his back clung to Silas' legs.

The moon appeared over him, growing larger and larger, until it was the only thing I could see. It would have been a beautiful sight, if not for the blood that dripped over the face of it. It flowed straight to the ground, spilling over the edge of a cliff before settling in a stone pool at the bottom.

"Are you okay?" Cade's voice snapped me back to reality.

I tried to excuse myself, turning to leave as my vision still faded in and out of blackness.

My leg felt like it shattered and I screamed as it collapsed under my weight, not caring about the impending impact with the ground. It never came.

Bash caught me, his plate of treats now laying forgotten on the ground. He tried to help me stand, but my fractured bones wouldn't hold me, so he scooped me up, supporting me with an arm around my back, and one under my knees.

My body vibrated in agony, and it was all I could do not to let out a continuous scream.

"Is she alright?" I heard a voice, I thought it was Atlar's, ask.

"She's shifting," Silas answered him calmly. I should have been shocked. But nothing was as important in that moment as the fire in my veins, and the absolute torture I was going through. "I think it's best if she's taken upstairs."

"I'll go," Cade offered, rising from his seat. Atlar and Rodan also stood, although I wasn't sure why, as they could do nothing from across the table.

"No, she's my sister, I'll take her," Rodan was very adamant.

"Neither of you will go. Your presence is required here, we have important things to discuss." Both men made to protest, but Silas continued before they could. "Bash is perfectly capable of handling this, we'll apprise him later."

I clung to Bash's neck, grateful that I wasn't responsible for my own weight. My skin was hot and I started to sweat.

"Girl," Silas called out, motioning to the human server I had noticed earlier. "What's your name?"

"Oh my god," she whimpered, sounding terrified. "Umm…Tracey," she finally answered him.

"Tracey, go with Bash, help him with whatever he needs."

"Okay," she answered nervously and came to stand beside us.

Another scream erupted from me as I felt my shoulder come apart. Tracey flinched, but followed Bash as he hurried into the hallway.

I groaned, Bash's jostling movements exacerbating my discomfort.

"Don't worry, Makara," Bash spoke quietly, directly into my ear. "Pretty soon you'll pass out from the pain. Let it happen, it'll be easier for you, trust me."

I tried to listed to him, hoping he was right, desperately wanting to be free of this.

"What exactly is happening to her?" Tracey asked as we entered into the elevator. "Why is she in so much pain?"

"Her bones are breaking, reshaping into the bones of her wolf. But according to legend, we're being punished, and we're not permitted to be in our wolf form. So once her bones settle into her shifted form, they can't stay there, so they'll break again, shifting back."

"It sounds awful."

"It is at the time. But it doesn't usually last more than a few hours, and once it's done, you're paired with your wolf, and there's few things more amazing than that."

The elevator dinged, almost as if it was a timer for the shift, as my back and ribs flared in pain. I cried out, having no other release and looking for anything to help take the pain away. Then, just as Bash promised, it was too much, and I drifted out of consciousness.

Chapter Text

I was hot. So hot that I could barely stand it, but at least the pain had lessened. It was still there, but distant. I could almost pretend it wasn't real.

Blurry images floated around me, and it was hard to get a grasp on any of them. But they all felt strange, as if they didn't belong to me. I could hear, more than see the scenes before me.

Shouting. Terrified yelps and sobbing.

"Why are you doing this?" A woman asked. I didn't recognize her voice.

Nobody answered her, and the shrill scream that ripped through her throat a minute later, quickly cut off by a bubbling gurgle, told me no one ever would.

My heart broke for her, introducing a new form of torture to go with the agony of my bones.

I fought to open my eyes, my heartache too much to take, but they were stubborn. I couldn't manage to lift my heavy lids, but I did feel myself easing closer and closer to waking. The noises and foggy shapes of my dream like state slowly disappeared. The pain got worse the closer to reality I got, but it was manageable compared to how it was before. It seemed I was still protected by the shield of my subconscious.

"She's burning up. Get me some wet towels, and ice," Bash called to someone, presumably the human that was sent to assist him.

The concept of passing time escaped me in my current state, but at some point I felt a gradual coolness spread over me, taking the edge off the fire in my veins.

I felt a shooting pain in my foot and tried to cry out, unable to summon the strength. Although I couldn't see it, I could tell that my ankle was jutting at an angle it shouldn't have been, and dreaded when it would snap back into place.

As if in answer to my distress, I was drawn quickly back into silent darkness. With nothing to look at, my emotions flared out of control, swirling around me, flooding me with distinct, but foreign feelings.

I felt superior, more so than I had ever felt before, and while the confidence was invigorating, I was disgusted. It didn't fit me, but clung to me like a second hand sleeve, dripping with toxic arrogance. An odd mixture of anger, excitement and sadness pushed through, and I had trouble focusing on just one.

Startled by a flash of colour, I was shocked to find myself staring back at me, completely expressionless until a slight smile appeared on my face.

My emotions softened, for some reason, easily calmed by the sight before me and I felt only desire, need, love.

"Silas," the mirror image spoke. Her lips continued to move, but I couldn't make out what she said as her volume was over powered by another, disembodied voice.

"How is she?" The voice said and I knew immediately it was Tal.

The pain, increasing in intensity, told me I was, once again, just below the surface of consciousness.

"Not great. It should be starting to let up by now," Bash answered her. His tone should have worried me, but I kept listening, unaffected by his words.

"Why is it taking so long?" A new voice spoke, the human's. I looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was happening and tried to open my eyes with no success.

"Her wolf must be very strong." There was a pause in Bash's explanation, and I could almost imagine the question on Tracey's face. "The shift is a confusing and hazy thing to go through. Stronger wolves have a harder time accepting the fact that they can't shift to their fur form. Sometimes they'll push the shift five or six times before realizing how much pain they're causing."

"Her own wolf is doing this to her?"

"Not on purpose. It's just instinct. If her wolf is still pushing the shift they likely haven't even had contact yet."

"It all has to do with how much of the Goddess' influence she has in her," Tal continued in place of Bash, "and it seems Makara has much of it."

At the mention of the Moon Goddess, I fell back, feeling like the floor had fallen out from under me. The conversation I had been listening to became distant mumbles, before silencing completely. Although I had wanted to listen some more, I was grateful for the reprieve from shattering bones.

I was expecting the same blackness as before, but was instead greeted with a light glow, although I didn't see where it was coming from. Turning, I searched for the source, finding only a woman, skin as dark as night and hair as pale as the moon.

My breath caught as I realized I could only be looking at the Moon Goddess herself. She looked frail, fragile, almost weak. No, weak wasn't the right word, she still emanated power. She flashed me a friendly smile, but it didn't reach her eyes. Instead they were filled with exhaustion, and anger. I knew instinctively her rage wasn't meant for me and allowed my gaze to follow when she lifted her hand to point at something.

A beautiful stone pool presented itself before me. A pillar in the middle, carved to looked like two wolves, supported a smaller bowl, running over with crystal clear water.

As I watched, the fountain began to run dry, the flow of water slowing to the slightest trickle before stopping completely. It allowed me a moment to admire the artwork of the carved wolves. With this closer look I could see the way the wolves were positioned, each baring their neck to the other.

One of the wolves was obviously bigger than the other, easily identifiable as an Alpha. Perhaps this other wolf was his mate? That might explain why they would submit to each other, but even that explanation didn't seem right. While most Luna's are relied on to support the Alpha, and will run the pack if the Alpha is away, they are still expected to submit to the Alpha's final say, should he choose to exercise it. I couldn't think of a situation where an Alpha would be required to submit to anyone.

Walking to the other side, I found the pillar also depicted the Moon Goddess, sitting peacefully on crossed legs, with her eyes closed. I reached out to run my fingers over the smooth stone, but it cracked under my touch. Frowning, I pulled my hand away.

The base of the fountain shook and groaned as it roared back to life, clear water once more over flowing the bowl at the top. I smiled at the sight, running my fingertips through the refreshing coolness of the stream.

My eyes closed as the constant beat of the water on my hand relaxed me. As I stood there, almost wishing I would never have to leave, the cool water turned warm, and gained a thickness that turned my stomach.

Opening my eyes, I jumped back as blood spilled over my hand. I cried out as the hard corner of a wooden table dug into my back, and turned to face it in shock. A woman, limbs barely as thick as the bones that supported them, sat on a tall stool by the table. She didn't seem to notice me.

Looking behind me, I could still see the fountain in the distance, Although much farther away than it was a moment ago. Its new scarlet appearance gave me a sense of foreboding.

The old lady's cackling drew my attention back to her. Her knotted hair hung past her shoulders, and the side of her face that I could see was sunken. She looked ill, as though some disease had crawled into her, stealing away any connection she may have had to beauty.

She poured over various old books as they bared their pages for her, offering the vast knowledge they were sure to contain. I tried to read over her shoulder, but couldn't make out the words, through the fancy lettering.

"You're almost done." I nearly hit the ceiling as she spoke, startling me.

Without looking, her hand reached out to absently tap a closed book beside her. I looked over at the book, unsure if she was talking to me and trying to figure out what was going on. I recognized the symbol on the cover, I had seen it before, but I couldn't place it.

"Soon," A distorted voice, distinctly male, but unrecognizable, said from behind me.

Turning to see who had spoken, I found no one, but was confronted with a stab of pain through my back and shoulders. As quickly as I had fallen into the hallucination, the agony pulled me right back out, and I was, once again, vaguely aware of my surroundings.

"I have as much right as you do. You know what that means," Atlar, I thought, spoke earnestly.

"Yeah, the meaning is hard to miss, you're not being very subtle," Cade replied. "But it's still no."

"Out! Both of you! Now!" Tal yelled at them. "She doesn't need to hear you guys arguing about whatever the hell it is you're arguing about."

As if her order was meant for me as well, blackness overtook me.

The back and forth was getting exhausting, and I sighed into the empty space of darkness before me. A small whine caught my attention. Spinning to look behind me, I saw the white wolf from my previous dreams, her pristine fur nearly glowing.

I reached out, hesitating when I remembered the searing pain I had endured the first time I stepped towards her. Deciding nothing could hurt worse than the shift itself, I lifted my hand to greet her.

She moved into my palm, allowing me to run my fingers through her soft fur. I smiled as she leaned into me when I scratched behind her ear.

She sat on her haunches, having seemingly had enough contact, pulling away from me. I watched her for a moment, before moving my gaze to stare at my hand, now looking like it had been tarred and feathered in blood and white fur.

It took all my effort to stop my hand from shaking at the sight. I balled my fist and dropped it to my side, hoping to make sure the wolf was okay. Instead, Emery kneeled in her place. All the color had drained from her and she swayed precariously.

"Are you okay?" I asked her.

She gripped at her stomach, blood pouring down her chin and sputtering from her mouth when she tried to respond.

I jerked awake, finally breaking through the barrier keeping me from consciousness. My eyes flew open and I sat up as quickly as I could, tears already flowing, and sobs racking my whole body.

"Shhh, it's okay, Makara. You're alright," Silas' voice soothed me, and I managed to take a deep breath to stop my body from shaking.

I could see I was laying on the couch, and from the way Silas softly brushed my arms, I could tell he was behind me. His right leg stretched out beside mine, pressed into the plush cushion of the back of the couch. His left was bent to my other side, foot resting on the floor. I realized absently that I must have been leaning on him.

"You're alright," he repeated, pulling back gently on my shoulders. "Lean back. The pain is over now, Makara, you need rest. You must be exhausted."

His calming tone helped me get myself back together. I really was exhausted, and the prospect of unencumbered sleep was so enticing, I couldn't resist allowing him to pull me against his chest. Almost immediately, I sank into the first truly empty sleep since I came to the hotel.

Blinking my eyes open, I felt fantastically renewed, and stretched the stiffness from my muscles. Propping myself up on my elbows, my attention settled on Silas, sat rigidly in the big arm chair across from me, his head leaning back and eyes closed. Watching him brought a smile to my face as his chest rose and fell with the gentle slowness of sleep.

As if on cue, he seemed to startle himself awake, coughing slightly to clear his dry throat.

"Morning," I greeted him quietly.

"Actually," he started, inspecting his wrist for the time, squinting to clear his tired fog. "It's quite late into the evening."

"Really?" I was surprised by his revelation. "It was barely afternoon when I left the meeting, I must have been out for a long time."

"Makara," he spoke my name delicately, leaning over to rest his elbows on his knees. "Your wolf pushed your shift for nearly twelve hours, and afterwards, you rested for almost double that."

Too shocked to speak, I simply stared at him. That was much longer than usual. Most shifts only lasted two to three hours. Even the strongest of wolves didn't typically push for more than six. Twelve hours was unheard of. If the shift was so long, it only made sense the rest period would be longer as well.

"So what does that mean? Why am I so different?" I didn't really expect Silas to know, but catching my slightly worried tone, he answered me anyway. I shifted to make room as he came to sit beside me on the couch.

"It means you're incredible. More so than we already knew." I flushed red at his compliment and he brushed my cheek with his thumb, a shiver running through me at his proximity. "The strength you would have needed to endure that…you're truly impressive, Makara."

I didn't know what to say, so we sat quietly, comfortably, until Silas broke the silence.

"Have you met her yet?"

I shook my head, knowing he was asking about my wolf.

"Not really. I think I might have seen her while I was unconscious, but it was only for a second, and she didn't speak to me." Because I had seen her before my shift, I didn't even know if the white wolf was mine, or if I simply conjured her in my mind.

"Well, give her some time. She'll be tired as well."

I smiled at him. I had been a little worried that I hadn't felt her yet, both nervous and excited for what it would be like when I finally did, but Silas' words were able to comfort me. It made sense, her mind, if not her body, needed rest as much as mine did.

"Are you hungry?" He asked me. "I could have Tracey bring something up."

"Tracey? Not Emery?" A painful flash of memory invaded me as I mentioned her name, the image of her blood dripping from her mouth still fresh.

"No. Not Emery. Never again will it be Emery."

My stomach sank as I tried to understand the meaning of his words. I didn't care for her, but his statement was ominous. Had Emery been the next victim to go missing? Is that why I saw her? Seeing the panic written on my face, Silas took pity on me and explained.

"I banished her."

"You what?"

"I banished her," he repeated before elaborating. "Bridger and I discovered she was the one who let Rodan into the suite the night he defiled you." I shifted awkwardly in my seat as his tone made the disgust that he felt very clear.

"Wow." I knew she didn't like me, even saw me as a threat to her precious attempts at seizing power through seduction, but this seemed a little drastic. Regardless of what Rodan had told her to get her to open the door, she still had no way of knowing his intentions.

"You'll have to find someone else to have your little feud with."

I glared at him as he chuckled, having successfully distracted me from the shock of Emery's actions.

"And you'll have to find someone else to bend over for you."

I regretted the words the instant they left my mouth and wished desperately that I could take them back. He leaned in to me, close enough for our cheeks to touch as he spoke softly into my ear.

"I'm working on that."

I swallowed hard and tried to control my body's reaction, scenting for the first time, my own arousal in the air.

He backed off, standing up and walking towards the door.

"Follow me."

"Right now?"

"Yes."

"Why? Where are we going?"

He ignored me, but I found him waiting for me in the hallway when I finally got there. A quick ride in the elevator brought us to the main floor, and I nearly had to run to follow his long strides out the door.

There was a slight drizzle of rain, the droplets of water just large enough to send the scent of wet earth into the air. My new heightened senses picked it up easily, I had never smelled anything like it.

Turning my attention upwards, I found even the sky had a scent. Or maybe it was the rain itself, or the trees that stretched tall on the other side of the clearing. It didn't matter what it was, only that it was incredible.

At first I had silently questioned why Silas would bring me outside in the middle of the night, thinking that whatever he had to show me could wait until a more reasonable time. But after experiencing it for myself, I didn't want to wait another minute.

I stepped onto the grass, opened up my arms and inhaled deeply, not caring how the rain soaked through my shirt, chilling the skin underneath.

Silas came over to stand behind me.

"I wanted to be the first to show you this. When I first shifted, the scent I loved the most was the fresh air, nature. It never fails to give me peace. It looks like it does the same for you." He chuckled.

"It's absolutely breathtaking. I feel so much more open to the world."

"You've only just scratched the surface. Scent is the easiest of your new senses to master, but also one of the most powerful. If you lost all your other senses, you could still have a complete picture of your environment based on the way it smells. Hearing is the same, but takes more practice."

I turned to look at Silas, my attention pulled away from nature by the passion in his words. It was obvious this was important to him, and as I watched him take it all in, I felt lucky that he had shared it with me.

The rain started to pick up and I shivered as it claimed the last dry inch of my clothing. Silas ushered me inside, insisting I would have plenty of time to enjoy nature later.

"I'm going to change, and then make some tea to warm us up," Silas told me before heading off towards his bedroom.

I hurried into my own room, anxious to get out of my wet clothes. Stripping them off, I quickly realized that the air was nearly as cold on my damp skin as the soaked fabric had been. I slipped into a warm pair of track pants and looked around for my sweater. Spotting the sleeve sticking out of my laundry hamper, I moved to pull it out, nearly gagging as the scent of old sweat wafted up from the basket. My new sense of smell wasn't always a good thing, there was no way I could wear that.

Instead, I put on my warmest, clean t-shirt and left my room hugging my cold arms tightly to my chest. Wandering into the kitchen, I found a bare chested Silas, filling a kettle for the tea, as promised.

"Cold?" He asked me when he noticed me.

"Frozen."

"Don't you have a sweater?"

"It sort of…stinks," I responded, red faced and annoyed that I had only thought to bring one from the estate. He chuckled, putting the kettle on the stove and turning on the flame.

"Don't worry, even the bad smells don't bother you as much once you get used to them."

"Can't wait," I moved closer to the stove, warming my hands up by the heat it provided. Silas disappeared somewhere behind me, and I turned just in time to see him slip out of the room. I knew he would be back, there were two mugs with tea bags sitting on the counter, so I continued to enjoy the warmth of the flame, although it did little to heat my arms or body.

Silas came back just as the kettle started to whistle, tossing me a large ball of fabric as he encouraged me to step out of his way with a wave of his hands.

"Put this on, it should keep you warm."

I unraveled the sweater, tugging it over my head as Silas poured boiling water into each of the mugs. It was much too big for me, but it was cozy, and it smelled like him. It was a good smell, I decided, inhaling the scent deeply.

When I turned back to him, he held his arms out, wrapping them around me. Tentatively, I moved into his grasp, letting him rub at my back and arms to generate heat. My arms were lodged between my chest and his, but I didn't mind.

Normally, being this close to him, I would be filled with tension. But, surprisingly, Silas kept his hands restricted to above my waist, and never tried to gain access to my front. The embrace was nothing but comfortable, and I quickly found myself leaning into him, resting my head on his chest.

I started to feel a tingling in my arms and pulled them out of their confined space. As I was still borrowing Silas' body heat, I didn't want to pull away completely and they settled absently in the most agreeable position they could find, one wrapped around his back, and the other hung loosely at his hip.

It occurred to me that his attempt to provide heat was now, more or less, a hug. I might have been bothered if this had happened at another time, but at the moment I was content in his arms.

"Better?"

"Yes," I replied quietly. "Thank you."

Neither of us pulled back, or let the other go. We stayed there, standing entwined in the kitchen for a few minutes that felt like hours.

I was getting sleepy, and a yawn stretched my lips. Wait. I lifted my head, confused. I hadn't yawned, so why did it feel like I had? A rush of excitement flooded me, as I realized what was happening. It forced me to take a step back, placing an invisible barrier between Silas and I that wasn't previously there.

A wide grin split my face as I could feel another consciousness start to emerge. It was still groggy, and not nearly coherent enough to have a conversation with, but I could tell that it was rapidly gaining awareness.

"Is she finished resting?" Silas questioned, noticing my change in demeanor and quickly guessing the reason.

I nodded, making no attempt to hide my enthusiasm. He smiled back at me.

"I'll leave you to your wolf then."

Opening his arms, he released me from his tight embrace. He tipped my head up towards his with a finger under my chin, lightly touching his lips to mine. It was charged with raw sensuality, but he kept that well at bay and on the surface it was sweet and I returned the kiss with the same gentleness he had offered me. Then, as quickly as his lips had made contact, they were gone, and Silas was on his way out of the kitchen, a mug of tea grasped firmly in his hand.

I wrapped myself tighter in his sweater as the cold creeped back in now that I was alone. I touched a finger to my lips, still tingling slightly. I felt weak, unsure of what to do or how to feel. There had been a softness to our night, an innocence that seemed to leave us both vulnerable, and I caught myself wondering if Silas had planned it that way.

I didn't have much time to muse on the thought as a mental prod caught my attention. My wolf was awake!

Chapter Text

I laid back on my bed, picking up my phone, once again staring at the text from Rodan.

"I want to make sure you're okay. I've been waiting for you to wake up so I can see you before I leave."

It was a simple message, on the surface. But after everything that had happened it was heavy with implications. Did Rodan truly care enough about me to be concerned? Or was he still just trying to convince me to go home with him?

A swirl of feelings pushed through me and I sighed. I was still getting used to my wolf's way of communicating, but it was difficult to pick out the meaning of any combination of emotions and images she sent to me.

"This would be easier if you could just speak to me," I thought to her.

She twitched her ears, growling low in her throat. Her teeth remained hidden though, she wasn't threatening me, simply expressing her discontent with my statement.

"What? I'm not wrong."

Within the confines of my mind, she flicked her tail at me. Sassy little thing.

An unmistakable feeling of hers washed over me. Guilt. I knew she felt bad we couldn't speak to each other the way other pairings were able to. The pairing of wolf to human was supposed to give the wolves the ability to speak our language, which made communication easy, even when the compact headspace made it difficult. But, for some reason, she couldn't, and neither of us knew why.

She could push her influence, making me feel emotions and small sensations, even hear or see things, and while she could understand everything I said, she was unable to respond in kind. It could be hard to decipher what she was trying to say, or to separate her emotions from mine. But if I looked deep enough, there was a distinct difference between them. It was definitely going to take some getting used to.

"Don't feel bad, sweet girl, we'll figure out our own language."

She closed her eyes, pushing her head forward as if to nuzzle me. I had come to understand that this meant she was happy. She had managed to get a few things across to me. Already, I knew she felt our bond as fiercely as I did, even having just met. She had been with me my whole life, dormant, but watching, like a guardian angel. She knew everything about me, what it was like growing up without a mother, the way my father had always coddled me and the pain of losing him despite that. She knew what had transpired since his passing, about my move to the hotel, even my strange dreams and the sexual feelings I had for the Alphas, Cade and Atlar. But she was just as confused by them as I was. She didn't seem to have any insight into the disappearances either.

My ears echoed with the sound of the front door, and I turned my attention back to the small device in my hand, focusing on the time in the corner of the screen. Morning already. I had spent all night with my wolf, most of it just enjoying our new relationship, but for the last hour, I was thinking about Rodan.

What was I supposed to say to him? A part of me wanted to see him, probably the same part that had kissed him despite everything. But the rest of me knew better. I lost control, and if Atlar hadn't have come in, I didn't know what would have happened. Aside from my temporary insanity, Rodan took liberties he wasn't owed, and I knew I couldn't trust him.

"I don't think it's a good idea. Go home, Rodan. I'm fine, I promise."

It was easier to deny him when he wasn't right in front of me. But I still had to fight the inner pull to give in. I wondered if this would wreck any chance of salvaging our relationship. Did I even want that anymore? I dropped my phone to my bed, not wanting to see his reply.

I heard a door slam from the hallway. Immediately guessing it was Rodan's, I rushed to the front door, hoping I could confirm its locked status before he made the short trek from his room. He obviously didn't have a problem coming in uninvited, and I thought my message might have angered him.

He got there before I did, but to my surprise, didn't even try the handle, instead knocking loudly on the door.

"Makara! I know you can hear me. I'll leave, like you asked. But when you're done playing house, come home. Whatever the old man does to fuck this up, I'll fix it."

He must have heard Silas leave as well. There was no way he would risk that statement if he thought there was a chance Silas could hear him. What did he mean by that anyway? Why would he assume I was playing some game that could be ruined? I brushed it off as jealousy and anger.

I flopped onto the couch, hoping to lounge away the stress of the situation. It didn't work and I was quickly on my feet again. My wolf was restless too, pacing back and forth in my head.

I decided I needed to burn off some energy, and I knew just how to do it.

Waiting what I thought was enough time for Rodan to be clear of the hallways, I cracked open the door, listening for any signs of him. It was completely silent.

I scurried down the hall and into the elevator, excited to train for the first time since my shift. There was bound to be some improvement in my skills and I couldn't wait to see the extent of the change.

Ignoring the looks I got as I burst through the training room door, I searched for Cade's familiar face. I looked at the time on the wall, he should already be here, but I couldn't spot him. Leaving, I headed over to check the outdoor sparring area, thinking he might be there instead. No luck. My wolf gave an impatient snort, just as anxious to train as I was.

I reached for my phone, but my fingers brushed over smooth fabric. I had forgotten my phone on my bed. Begrudgingly, I turned around, heading back to the suite to retrieve it. Sending Cade a message to find out where he was seemed like a better idea than wasting my time looking for him.

"Makara!"

Before I could register who I had nearly run into when rounding the corner, I was enveloped in a large pair of arms and lifted off the ground. My own arms were pinned to my side, and I could barely breathe within the grip.

"Hi, Bash," I huffed out, giggling, when he finally set me down.

"You're not dead! I thought for sure the shift would kill you with how long it was taking."

"Nope, not dead! But there were a few times I wished for it just to get some relief. I've never felt pain like that before."

"Awww, but you're one tough cookie." He ruffled my hair. "And obviously your wolf is too." He reached for his ringing phone as I flattened out my hair.

"Hey, man," he spoke into the device.

"Is that Cade?" I asked, guessing based on Bash's greeting. His eyes widened, but I didn't wait for him to answer. "Where is he? Can I talk to him?" I hoped to avoid getting my own phone if I could.

"Ummm….why?"

"What do you mean, why? Because I want to train, and I'm excited to show Cade my new skills. I thought he would be as well, but I couldn't find him."

"Oh, well, uh, I'm sure he is too. Did you check the, uh, basement? Or you know, maybe he's still sleeping or something." His face contorted as if it physically hurt him to speak.

"You're on the phone with him right now," I pointed out.

"Yeah, right, well, I shouldn't have answered that." He hung up the phone. "That was rude, I better go apologize, I'll catch you later, Makara."

He left me standing in the hallway, alone and confused. I shook my head and headed upstairs, intent on talking to Cade myself. I stopped in at his suite, but he didn't answer the door, and I couldn't hear anything inside. Rolling my eyes, I continued up another floor, my annoyance melting away when I stepped into the suite I shared with Silas.

Flowers. I didn't know what kind, but I could smell them right away. I found the large arrangement on the table and inhaled their scent deeply. I looked for a card, but there was none.

"They're all local," Silas' voice startled me as he walked out from his office. "You could find any of them in the wooded area outside, and they all have strong scents. Just a little something to celebrate your new strength."

"They're amazing, Silas. Thank you."

I sniffed each flower individually, noticing how they differed from each other. Silas walked over and his powerful sent mingled with that of the flowers.

"They're hand picked, you know." He spoke softly, and a moment later that same softness was mirrored by his fingers tracing light lines on my neck as he shifted my hair off of one shoulder and onto the other. The action sent shivers through my body, at first following his fingers, then rippling out from the source when he lifted them.

"They remind me of you. This one," he reached over me with one hand, taking one of the petals between his fingers and pressing himself against my back to do so. "Is small. It looks delicate, but it has the strongest scent, just like you have the strongest spirit."

I stared at the honey yellow flower in his grasp. It was almost half the size of the others, but I was easily able to differentiate its scent. The thought made me smile, even as Silas' position behind me raised tingling goosebumps on my flesh.

"This one," he moved his attention to the next flower, leaning in close to whisper the words against my skin. "Is sweet. Like your lips when you are gracious enough to allow me a taste." He punctuated his words with a flick of his tongue, lighting the skin of my neck aflame underneath it. I gasped at the suddenness of it. It felt nice, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared, leaving me wanting, my frustration subdued only by his free hand that had made its way to my waist.

"The curves on this petal are so beautiful," he followed an unknown pattern on my flesh with his tongue and my eyes fell closed as every inch he touched came alive. "I can't help but stare."

It seemed almost impossible to breathe, my chest heavy with the pounding of my heart.

"This one has a heat that draws me to it," he spoke slowly between feather light kisses along my neck and shoulder. His hand found the hem of my shirt and slipped quickly underneath it, his fingertips teasing me as easily as his lips.

He pulled me tighter and I could feel his hardness against my ass and the small of my back. My body blazed, as if to match the heat of the flower that Silas had referenced.

"And this one," I couldn't see the flower he was pointing at with my eyes closed, but I didn't care. It was difficult to concentrate on anything but his hypnotic ministrations. "Connects them all, ties them together and makes them a perfect fit."

His pointing hand joined the other around my waist, and a small whimpering moan escaped me as he nipped at my shoulder.

"Kind of like us, Makara. A perfect fit."

I heard him, but I barely registered what he said, my body too focused on his closeness. Although I was too dazed to say exactly where his hands had roamed, I was hyper aware of the teasing pleasure they gave me.

"It's been a long time since I've felt this way about anyone." His voice was soothing, comforting. It felt safe, and I wanted to melt into him, completely consumed by the sensations. At that moment, it seemed like the perfect way to live, or to die.

"Be my Luna."

That word, hot with implications, cut through the distractions like they were butter.

"Wait," I finally found my voice, surprised that I could speak through the dryness of my mouth.

Silas stopped his movements, but didn't remove his hands and as the delightful haze cleared from my mind I became more and more aware of where they actually were. One of them was wrapped firmly around my breast, my nipple pinched between two of his fingers. His other hand dipped shallowly into the top of my shorts, as if it had just begun its journey when it was interrupted.

We both stood, unmoving and unsure of our next step. I laid my hand over his, taking a deep breath before gently tugging his fingers out of my shorts. My mind was clear now, but my body still burned with need, and my wolf's displeasure in my choice, made clear by her bared teeth and rippling growl, made it even more difficult to fight against it.

He took the hint, untangling himself from me, but leaving his hands on my hips. Timidly, I stepped out of his grasp and turned to face him. My wolf snapped her jaws in protest, but I ignored her easily, focused as I was on the man in front of me.

I didn't know exactly when, but I knew we had crossed some sort of line, a line that separated physical desire from the other, more complicated, feelings. I wondered briefly if he even realized what he had said. Only the Alpha's true mate had ever held the title of Luna. It was such an important role, for him to offer it to me showed an extreme level of trust, and intimacy that no Alpha had ever offered their second mate before. It took one look at him to know he knew exactly what he was doing, his emotions and vulnerability tangled together in a way that was both easy to see and hard to identify.

"What did you say?" I asked him, hoping that I had heard him incorrectly. I cared for him, loved him even, in some ways, but not in the way Silas needed. Not in the way I knew he loved me.

"Be my Luna," he repeated confidently.

My stomach clenched and twisted as he said the word again.

"Silas, for that…," I trailed off, attempting to swallow past the lump in my throat before I realized it was futile and spoke around it instead. "For that, we'd need to be-"

"Mates, yes."

"But we're not."

"We could be, if you wanted."

I opened my mouth to speak, thankful when he cut me off as I didn't even know what I was about to say.

"You can choose, Makara. We have a connection, I know you feel it." His hand came up to cup my face, his thumb grazing gently over my cheek. I resisted the urge to lean into his hand, despite my wolf's insistence otherwise.

"I know, but the Moon Goddess will have given me a mate, someone I'm fated to be with."

"Fuck fate." He moved both hands to my hips, pulling me tightly against him. "Fuck the Moon Goddess and her plans. I need you, Makara. Be my Luna."

He rested his forehead against mine, waiting for me to answer. I could tell his breathing was as heavy as mine, the hot air mingling in front of us.

"Silas, to…I...," I stuttered, struggling to find the right words. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, and his fragility was clear in his tensed muscles. "Luna. It's too much," I finally managed. "It's too fast. I'm not ready."

"Very well." He lifted his head from mine and gently ran his fingers through my hair. "I'll give you time."

He placed an urgent, closed mouth kiss against my lips. If his words hadn't already made it clear, his kiss demonstrated the intensity and depth of his feelings for me. As he stepped away, I almost pulled him back for the passion of it.

He turned and walked away without another word, and I watched him until he closed himself behind his bedroom door.

"Idiot," I thought to myself. I hadn't lied, exactly. But there was definitely more I could have told him, including the fact that I had no intention of being his mate. I wanted my Goddess given mate, the one who would send electric tingles through every inch of me the moment we touched. I just needed to find them, and now that I was shifted, I could.

I caught a whiff of the flowers again and Silas' words from the night before came back to me. I needed something to relax me, to calm me down. I needed peace, so I went to find it.

It didn't take me long to make it outside, and the second I stepped through the door I took a deep breath, instantly feeling my stress disappear with my exhale. There was no rain to coax the scent from the earth, but I could still sense its muted fragrance. It was beautiful.

I was halfway to the wooded area before I even realized my feet were moving. The sun beat down, warming my skin and the wind tussled my hair with soft caresses. The scent of the earth grew stronger with each step, my heavy foot falls stirring it up as I started to run. If I had to describe freedom, it would be this. No stress, no problems or burdens, mine or anyone else's, to think about. Just me. Just nature.

Finally, my wolf agreed with one of my choices, excited to be running through the woods, as was her instinct. She wagged her tail enthusiastically, beaming as she poured her energy and happiness into me.

I ran faster than I ever had before, thinking nothing of the smile plastered on my face and paying no heed to the signs I passed warning of danger. The trees quickly became scattered on the now rocky terrain, until there was almost no plants at all.

A loose flower petal, black as the night itself, caught my eye and I slowed my pace. It was out of place, sitting alone on the rock and there was no indication of where it came from. I tried to identify its scent, frowning when I couldn't pick it out. I wondered how it got there before the wind picked it up and carried it away.

It brought with it an unfamiliar and unpleasant scent that invaded my nostrils, forcing me to cover my nose and mouth. It seemed to surround me, overpowering everything else. Hesitantly, I found the direction the scent was coming from and decided to investigate, wondering what could possibly smell so bad.

Cautiously, I inched towards the edge of a small rock cliff, peering over the side. The second my head made it over the shelf, I heaved, the odor hitting me like a simultaneous punch to the face and stomach. Retreating back to safety, I buried my nose in the crook of my arm, before looking over the edge again, this time a bit more successful in my investigation.

I was standing on top of a small cave opening, but I couldn't lean over far enough to see what was inside. Walking along the edge, I noticed the rocks descended in a gentle slope along the side of the cave's mouth, and quickly made the decision to climb down. I kept a hand over my nose, mildly successful in reducing the pungent scent. It seemed to be coming from a pile of rocks just inside the cave, and I walked over to it slowly, inspecting it for anything unusual.

The first thing I saw was the long strands of hair that laid upon the ground, then a pair of dark, bruised lips, until finally settling on the cold, lifeless eyes of Emery looking back at me.

Chapter Text

"Anything?" I asked Silas as I came out of my room.

Silas had sent someone to investigate as soon as I had returned with news of what I found. He had insisted I take a hot shower and then get some rest, although I hadn't managed a wink of sleep.

"Nothing concrete yet. Cade and the others are not finished their report."

I sighed, the tension in me obvious in my crossed arms.

"Give them some time, Makara."

Nodding, I moved to sit beside him on the couch, mildly aware of the awkwardness present after our conversation the day before.

"She was in my dreams when I was shifting, and when I found her, I thought maybe someone had…maybe she had been…"

I couldn't bring myself to say the words.

"And if that's what happened, we'll find whoever's responsible. But those caves are dangerous, I wouldn't be surprised if this was just a tragic accident."

An accident would be better. Well, not for Emery, but it's better for everyone else if there's not a murderer wandering around.

"What were you even doing all the way out there?"

"I just needed to be outside, and once I got there, I just needed to run, I didn't pay attention to where I was going."

"Well, you should be proud."

"Why?" I questioned, looking at him with surprise widened eyes.

"You did great out there, tracking her down with your scent, and then following your nose back home when you didn't know the way. That's no small feat for someone who's freshly shifted."

"Oh," I couldn't help but smile. "Umm, thank you."

"Come in," Silas called in response to the knock on the door, moving past me to greet whoever was on the other side.

"Atlar," he addressed when the vampire appeared in the open door. "What can I help you with?"

"Hello, Silas, Makara," he spared me a head nod, and turned back to the Alpha. "Silas, I'm about to leave for my meeting with the humans."

I looked between the two men. I knew it would be more polite for me to give them some privacy, but I was nosey, and nobody was asking me to leave, so I watched quietly.

"I trust Axis is ready to join you?"

"Yes, that's what I'd like to speak to you about actually. I urge you to reconsider sending Axis. As I explained, this is a very delicate situation with the humans that could lead to war between us and them."

"The treaty is clear, Atlar. You're restricted in the same way we are. The vampires aren't permitted to have any major meetings without a werewolf representative. I would certainly call this a major meeting, wouldn't you?"

"Of course. But consider for a moment that the humans aren't expecting a wolf, and Axis doesn't want to go. He's intimidating enough on a good day, but what do you think will happen if I show up with a grumpy werewolf enforcer?"

"I am sympathetic to your plight, Atlar, but the rule is in place for all of our safety, we can't just ignore it when it's inconvenient for us to follow it."

"I understand, and I ask only that you consider an alternative representative."

"I'll go," I blurted before I realized what I was saying. Both men turned towards me, shock shaping both of their expressions.

"No, you won't," Silas stated, matter of factly before turning back to the vampire.

I moved to stand in front of Silas, unwilling to allow him to brush me off as my father and brother always had.

"We need a representative there, and Atlar needs someone less…abrasive…than Axis."

"Then I'll send Bridger, or Cade."

"Cade's busy, and I would hardly consider Bridger any less intimidating. Besides, it's better if I keep myself busy. I don't want to just wait around here, hoping for answers."

He watched me intently as I spoke, his hard eyes flicking back and forth between mine. He was unconvinced, but I knew he was considering it, so I pushed harder.

"You keep telling me I'm going to have an important role, but you have yet to give me any tasks."

He sighed, but remained stubbornly silent.

"Come on, Silas, I can do this. Please."

"How long will you be gone?" He spoke above my head, directly to Atlar.

"No more than two days," he responded, a hopeful beat to his tone.

Silas looked back down at me.

"Go pack."

I scurried to my bedroom, ecstatic that Silas had agreed.

"She's your responsibility, vampire," I could still hear Silas talking, and continued to listen as I quickly packed a bag. "If any harm comes to her while she's in your care, I promise, you will regret it."

Within a few minutes, I was packed and we were on the road, Atlar in the driver's seat, and me in the passenger seat of a sleek black car.

"Well this is awkward," I announced.

"Why?" he flashed me a sharp smile. "Is it because the last time we were together you had your brother's tongue down your throat?" I groaned as he finished his sentence. "Or is it that once he left, you confessed your attraction for me?"

"Both of those, actually."

I stared out the window as he laughed, hoping to hide my red face.

"Don't worry about it, Makara. It's a bigger deal in your culture than it is in mine. Vampires live for hundreds of years, and you don't live that long without crossing a few lines."

"Well that's wonderful, but I'm not a vampire."

"I just mean that you don't have to be embarrassed in front of me." He nudged my shoulder with his elbow. Even through the fabric of my shirt, I could feel the warmth of his skin.

He nudged me again, and I moved to swat his hand away playfully, but he was quicker than me, and snatched his arm away before I got the chance. His gaze alternated between me and the road, and when his lips turned up in a devilish smile, I couldn't help but mirror him.

"Thanks," I told him, surprised by how comforted his antics had actually made me feel.

"Thanks back. You're really saving my ass by taking Axis' place," he explained when I gave him a confused look.

"Is it really that bad?"

"Yes." He nodded as he spoke the word. "The humans are afraid right now, and everyone knows how humans get when they're scared."

"You mean panicked and violent? What does that have to do with you?"

"Well I'm not just a pretty face, you know, I'm also second to the clan leader which makes it my job to clean up stupid, impulsive messes created by vampires with too much free time and not enough brain cells."

"Are there many of those?" I asked him, a small smile spreading across my face.

"Messes? Or brain cell-lacking vampires?" He paused for a brief moment, seemingly waiting for my answer, but began again before I could provide him with one. "Actually it doesn't matter, the answer's the same; yes."

A laugh escaped me before I could stop it, a light hearted sound that carried away the weight of the last few days. Atlar smiled at me and a comfortable quiet settled over the car. It only took a few minutes for my head to lean back against the headrest, and my eyes to fall shut.

•°~~****~~°•

"I'm glad you decided to come with me," Atlar spoke as we crossed the threshold of a rather plain looking room. "It's nice to finally be alone."

When I turned to face him his lips crashed into mine and I groaned in approval when his arms held me tight to his bare chest. He must have removed his shirt the second we were inside. His hands found themselves under my shirt, deftly sliding it over my head, breaking the kiss just long enough to pull it free. He tossed it aside, annoyed that it had ever interfered with his access.

I happily accepted his tongue as it prodded for entrance, moving to wrap my arms around his neck as he did so. Without warning, his hands wrapped around my wrists, using the grip to stiffly turn me around. I gave a whimpered mewl, unsure if was at the loss of his kiss, the fire his forceful move had lit in my core, or both.

Pressing himself against my back he leaned in, dusting my neck with kisses.

"Do you want to be mine?"

My body, so focused on the possessive, sultry tone of his voice and the light touch of his lips, made no effort to prepare a response. I swallowed thickly, urging my mind to search for the words to express my desire for more. As if he could read my thoughts, he brought his arms around me, his practiced hands making short work of the fastenings of my pants.

My own hands went behind me, fumbling with the button and zipper keeping me from his hard manhood, so close I could barely stand it. He shifted his hips away, giving me more room to work. My excitement threatened to buckle my knees as the button popped open, followed immediately by the wonderfully distinct sound of his zipper releasing as I pulled it down. I reached blindly for the elastic of his boxers, plunging my hand inside the second I found it.

"Makara!"

He called my name, the shout nothing like the gravelly utterance I would expect from a man so clearly enjoying himself.

"Makara!" He called again, the contrast between the coolness of his tone and the heat of the situation splitting my eyes open.

I nearly slammed my head into the window as I jolted awake. Atlar stood outside the car, his hand on the driver's seat, supporting his weight as he leaned over to me, shaking my shoulder gently.

"We're here. And it's about damn time too. I'll need a cold shower after that car ride."

"What?" My sleep addled mind panicked, convinced he knew of his part in my dream.

"I may be a vampire, but I still find the scent of arousal from a pretty girl just as titillating as a wolf would. I don't know what you were dreaming about, but it sure seemed liked a good time."

"Sorry," I mumbled sheepishly.

"Don't be. You ready to go in?"

"Yeah." I answered, thankful for the change in subject.

Humans filed out of the large building in front of us, they lined a path from the door to the car, standing ominously still and quiet. Their dark clothes stood out against the red brick of the building, but did nothing to hide the weapons at their sides.

I gave Atlar a nervous look, unsure if this was the welcome he was expecting. He flashed me an easy smile. A man, surrounded by an air of authority, walked along the line of humans until he came face to face with Atlar.

"Atlar, I presume?"

"Yes, sir," Atlar spoke respectfully, shaking the outstretched hand the man offered him.

"I'm Simon Luxor, Chief of Police for this village," he introduced himself, his voice deep and gruff in a way that matched his rugged face. "We weren't expecting you to bring company. Who's this?" He motioned towards me without looking. A part of me wanted to scold him for dismissing me, acting as though I were an inconvenience to him, but I decided against it. Atlar had already told me how important this meeting was, and I didn't want to jeopardize anything for him.

"This is Makara, she represents the werewolves."

If Simon was surprised at the revelation, he didn't show it.

"I wasn't aware this matter concerned any werewolves. "

"It doesn't, not directly anyway. But, the vampires and the werewolves have a standing treaty and Makara's presence here is required to uphold it. Besides, it might be prudent for the humans to set terms with the wolves as well, two birds with one stone and all that."

"And what position does Makara hold to be able to authorize such an arrangement?" Simon scowled.

The metallic taste of blood tinged my mouth as I bit my tongue, hard enough to keep the profanity I wanted to shout safely unspoken. The two men spared me a glance and I offered them the most polite smile I could muster, however devoid of actual happiness. Atlar's gaze lingered a little longer, the corner of his mouth cracked infinitesimally, a sympathetic half grin paired with his soft, kind eyes. I saw an apology there, though anyone not looking for it would be forever ignorant to its presence. I allowed it to soften the edges of my anger, nodding my head almost imperceptibly in a silent acceptance for only Atlar to see.

"Makara is a well respected member of her pack, she has many responsibilities and the Alphas often seek her company. To give her any one title would belittle her importance. But I assure you, as the werewolf representative, she has the authority you speak of."

"I understand your politics are different from ours," Simon began with the beginnings of incredulous condescension. "But surely there is a position in our own hierarchy that is equivalent to-"

"There is no equivalent for Makara." Atlar interrupted him, his tone a warning that the human was pushing things too far. "If, for some reason, my assurance is not enough, then perhaps you should note that Makara is also my mate, and I expect for you to show her the same respect and courtesy you show me."

His words were slow to register, heavy with the severity of their meaning. Simon looked back at me, as if looking for confirmation. I smiled at him, nodding politely before I even realized what was happening.

I felt a nudge in my mind and opened myself up to my wolf.

"You've been quiet," I thought to her. She pushed through a feeling of intense boredom. "Bored, are you? And what exactly would be more interesting than this?" I regretted the question as soon as I asked it. She showed me images of things from my dreams, replaying how it felt to have someone up against me, snippets of memories of hard bodies and heated flesh. She sent another feeling through me, one that sat low in my stomach and pulsed through my core. Instinct squeezed my legs together, searching for some type of friction, and I was able to pick out the scent of my arousal. I was suddenly glad to be surrounded by humans, until I saw Atlar smirking at me.

"Is that all you think about?" I scolded her, my face red. She flicked her tail at me, prancing around in her amusement.

"Very well," Simon spoke, breaking me out of my head. "Welcome Atlar and Makara," he addressed both of us. "The Mayor would like to see you right away, if you'll follow me."

Atlar moved towards the back of the car, pressing the button to open the trunk with a 'chirp'.

"Stop!" Someone yelled, and when I looked up every human, save for the chief himself, had their weapons trained on Atlar. I froze, unsure what to do, but Atlar flashed them an effortless smile.

"Easy, boys. Just getting our bags from the trunk." He lifted his arms, showing the men his empty hands, keys dangling from one finger.

"Don't worry about those," Simon started. "We'll have them brought to your room. I assume the one room we prepared will suffice?"

"Yes," Atlar answered for both of us, dropping his arms and handing the keys over to the chief.

"Excellent, follow me."

"Before we do," Simon stopped in his tracks at Atlar's hesitation. "Might I request your men put their guns down? It's starting to feel like you might not trust me, and such a thought is a little off putting."

Simon glared at him momentarily, clearly appraising his intentions, but eventually waved a hand at the aiming officers. With practiced obedience, their weapons were once again holstered, and their arms unmoving at their side.

We followed Simon into a lavishly decorated room. On one side, a leather couch and two leather arm chairs sat surrounding a large oak coffee table. On the other, a magnificent desk, bigger even than Silas', with an intricate design carved into the legs. Behind the desk was a shelf, lined floor to ceiling with books, all with titles related to human politics, or city planning. I noticed a crystal decanter sitting on a small table under the window, and pushed my senses to pick up the scent of the brown liquid inside, proud of myself when I succeeded.

"The Mayor will be with you shortly. Feel free to make yourselves comfortable," Simon spoke as he let us walk past him, moving back to the door. I caught a glimpse of two of his officers guarding the door before Simon closed it behind him.

"I want to apologize for that whole mate thing out there," Atlar started. "I know that's probably not the way you wanted to get his respect, but he was starting to make me angry, and that's the only way I could think of to diffuse the situation without pulling his teeth out with my bare hands."

"That's okay," I answered, knowing the simple white lie had served its purpose. "But that does mean that you'll have to share a room with me now."

"Have to? Or get to?"

He smiled as colour enflamed my cheeks, and an uncomfortable quiet permeated the room.

"The humans are really worked up," I mentioned casually, my nerves urging me to fill the silence.

"Yep, that's how they get with anything new or different. Although the unprovoked murder probably doesn't help."

"What exactly happened here, anyway? You never actually told me."

"Ferris happened. He went rogue, came to the nearest human town and turned four young men. There were another three casualties."

"Wow. Those were the four you were with at the bar, I suppose? The ones who attacked Cade?"

"Yeah. They're stupid, and immature, and think that just because they have certain advantages over others, that somehow makes them rulers of the world. A lot like Ferris actually. They're with the clan now. We'll see if we can hammer some semblance of control and decent behavior into them. Now we have to hope the humans don't declare war."

As if on cue, the door to the office swung open, and a powerful looking woman made long strides to the desk. Simon followed behind her, along with two more officers. The woman sat in the large chair on the other side of the desk, leaving the men to stand behind her. There were no seats for guests, save for the couch set on the other side of the room, so we stood in front of her.

"Let's get this over with," she barked.

Chapter Text

Simon presented us to the Mayor, introducing her only by her title.

"Before we begin, I'd like to express our gratitude that you would allow Makara and I to stay in your beautiful home."

"Don't. I didn't do it for your thanks, I did it to keep an eye on you. I need to keep my people safe from any more…creatures." She spoke the word with undisguised disgust.

She looked right at me, and her hard gaze compelled me to respond to her.

"I assure you, we want the same thing. We're not here to hurt anyone."

"I should hope not. We wouldn't stand idly by and allow that." She allowed a dangerous edge to creep into her voice, raising tiny bumps on my skin.

"What does that mean?" Atlar asked her, his own tone dropping almost imperceptibly.

"It means, that we will not hesitate to use our considerable arsenal, and from what I understand, higher quantity of soldiers to protect ourselves. Preemptively, if need be." Her barely concealed threat hung in the air.

"Let's try to avoid that, shall we? We would, of course, respond in kind. Vampires can be dangerous, and humans are rather vulnerable in the mortality department, and they're slow to heal."

The Mayor gnashed her teeth together, and I could see her figurative hackles raise at Altar's challenge.

"They can also be quite resilient-"

"Like cockroaches," Atlar interrupted her, his own back up in defense at her blatant provocation, showing no indication of backing down. I cleared my throat, hoping to get his attention. He didn't look at me, so I settled for trying to stare some sense into the side of his head.

"I believe Vampires have their own vulnerabilities, no? We would have no issues exploiting them. I promise you, the Vampires would not survive a war with the humans."

"Is that a threat?" Atlar growled through clenched teeth, his anger evident in his tensed muscles.

"Okay," I interjected, wondering why Atlar was being so aggressive. "I think things have gotten a little out of hand. I think we can all agree that nobody wants war. Yes, Mayor, the humans have significantly more numbers than we do, even in this secluded town. They could do a lot of damage. But the Vampires and the Wolves are allies, and we have advantages that humans just don't. War would mean devastating losses on both sides. Avoiding war is the reason we're here."

"How then, would you expect me to handle the murder of three innocents, and the abduction of four others? Should I welcome you with open arms?"

"I understand the situation you're in. But what happened was not the fault of the Vampires as a whole. There are bad Vampires, and bad Werewolves, just as there are bad humans. Would you condemn the entire race?"

"I can recognize the truth in your statement," she answered me, her angry mood now tempered. "But if that is the case then what good will a treaty do? These 'bad' individuals will still do whatever they'd like, regardless of what we agree to."

"That's true, they will. We've had an agreement with the Vampires for many years, and we still have some issues here and there."

"So why are we wasting our time?"

"The treaty isn't perfect," Atlar rejoined the conversation, his time in silence apparently enough to calm him down. "But it's the best way to avoid unnecessary violence. The most likely people to breach the terms are the ones who are already causing issues with the existing laws. But they are not the rule, they are the exception. Most people will do what you ask of them."

"But, if they don't," I continued. "The treaty is a guide for acceptable discipline, and it removes the possibility of retaliation from the other side."

The Mayor rubbed her chin thoughtfully, leaning in to hear Simon better as he bent to whisper in her ear. I couldn't catch everything they said, but heard enough to know that they were considering the offer, the seclusion of their town and the recent attack enough to drive them to accept.

"What terms are you suggesting?"

We discussed the conditions back and forth for hours, until eventually the humans were written into the existing terms.

"One more thing," the Mayor looked directly at Atlar as she spoke. "There's still the issue of the three who were killed, and the four who were abducted."

"Yes, of course. The vampires will cover any and all funeral costs, as well as ensure the families of the three victims are well taken care of. As for the other four," Atlar paused, scratching at the back of his neck. "Some Vampires are born, some are turned, and the process of turning a human into a vampire is not one that someone can be pressured into. Yes, the physical actions required, while extremely intimate and invasive, can be performed against one's will, there's a mental component that can't be forced."

"You're saying the four young men who were taken from our town have been turned into Vampires, and that they wanted it?"

"Yes. I escorted them back to our clan myself, they have been turned. The turn won't take hold unless the human truly wants it."

I watched them talk back and forth, not having anything to add.

"Two of those boys were my nephews. Another is the son of a close friend. Are you telling me the men we knew are gone? That we'll never see them again?" A touch of sadness seeped through the tough edge she put to her words.

"No, not at all." Her shoulders sagged with relief as Atlar spoke. "As Vampires, there will be some changes. They'll get stronger, faster, they'll hear better, see better, smell better, and heal quicker. But, fundamentally they're the same as they were. The older a Vampire is, the more prominent all of these attributes are, they'll increase over time. Those boys are not much different from a human right now."

"Then why were they taken?"

"Being turned also comes with nearly uncontrollable bloodlust. From what I understand of the situation, it was actually those four boys who drained the life of the other three." The Mayor straightened her back, pressing her lips into a hard line. Atlar continued before she had a chance to interrupt. "Please don't misunderstand. I don't mean to say it was their fault. They had no more control over their actions than a sleepwalker might. I only mean to demonstrate how dangerous unrestrained bloodlust can be. A vampire born to the race learns control instinctually over time, and by the time they're old enough to do any damage the bloodlust would be comparable to a human's hunger. Present, and important, but never in control."

"So what does that mean for the four men?" I asked, my interest piqued as I learned this new information.

"The feeding they had during the attack was enough to sustain them for a few days. But after that they would have lost control again. We took them so we could teach them how to handle the bloodlust, somewhere away from anyone who could get hurt. When they've learned control, they're free to go wherever they'd like, and in the meantime, you are free to visit." He motioned to the Mayor.

"And then what? How do they sustain themselves after that?"

"There are different ways. Some choose animal blood, others use blood bags that are donated…" he trailed off.

"What else?" The Mayor demanded, sensing his hesitation.

"There are…occassionally...humans who enjoy being fed on. They sometimes volunteer. But we only allow experienced vampires to feed on a volunteer and they never take enough to do any damage to the human."

"And what do you do?"

"Oh," Atlar stuttered. "That's a very personal question," he paused for a moment as if trying to make a decision. I had to admit I wanted to know as well, but my stomach was twisted with the awkwardness that often accompanies witnessing something you're not privy to. Atlar took a deep breath and continued. "For the sake of transparency, I'll oblige, but I don't suggest asking this of any Vampire you may meet in the future. I have partaken in all three. While I'm at home I usually use volunteers, while I'm away I use the bags."

"Why go through the trouble of feeding off of someone, why not just use the bags?" She questioned, barely managing to hide her distaste.

"Put simply, fresh blood tastes better. It's satisfies better, and longer."

"Is it difficult then, for you to be here?" She asked, her curiosity now driving her inquiries.

"Not at all. I was born a Vampire, and I have impeccable control."

"If you say so. But, I don't like that humans are being fed on. In light of this new treaty, I think it's only fair that we remove live humans from your food source, since you have other means of sustaining yourselves."

I looked to Atlar curiously, wondering what his reaction would be. He seemed surprised, but managed to keep himself composed.

"I'm afraid I would have to disagree. I don't believe forbidding the practice to be fair for either the Vampires, or the humans who volunteer. Some Vampires don't take very well to the alternatives, and limiting their options could be disastrous for them. Besides, for the most part, those involved are consenting, and enjoy the process very much, it can be quite...intimate."

"And for those who don't consent? For those who are pressured into it, or are forced to submit?"

"I admit the line between moral and immoral is occasionally blurred for Vampires, as it often is for those with perceived power. And while feeding on unwilling humans is not strictly illegal in our culture, it is frowned upon. But I am ashamed to say it does happen. In compromise, I would be happy to stipulate that any feeding from a live human must be consensual, and place drastic consequences for anyone who violates that term."

The Mayor judged his words, looking at him with hard eyes, tired with the weight of her responsibility. She nodded, motioning so she could speak into Simon's ear, her words hidden from us by the sound of her chair moving across the floor.

"Very well," she spoke, standing up straight behind her desk. "I'll still need to know the ins and outs of your governments, and I'd like some more information on the differences between our…races. But, right now, I've had enough of this discussion for today. We'll go over more details tomorrow." She didn't wait for a response as she strode out of the room.

Simon led us upstairs to a room simply, but beautifully, decorated. A king sized bed stood in the centre of the back wall, under a large window shrouded with lacy curtains that obscured the view outside, save for some lights and shadows from the street below. I breathed a sigh of relief as I glimpsed a private bathroom through a door to my right, not relishing the idea of fumbling around the large home in the middle of the night.

"Not bad, huh?" Atlar closed the door behind him, looking around the room as Simon disappeared from view. "You know, for a couple of creatures, anyway." He poked fun at the word the Mayor had used as an insult, his sharp teeth shining from behind his grinning lips.

"I don't believe she actually thinks that," I told him, absently walking over to the window. "Not anymore, at least."

"We'll see. She seemed to have a pretty firm opinion of us."

"Kind of like your opinion of them? What happened in there?" I confronted him. "She acted exactly the way we expected her to, but it's like you took it personally.

"I know, I know. I'm not usually like that," he sighed, his hand coming up to scratch through the hair at the back of his head.

"So what was all that?"

"Honestly?" He waited for me to nod my head. "I'm a bit hungry. Hangry, I suppose."

"Hungry?" Incredulous disbelief coated my words. "But you were just preaching about how much control you had over your blood lust, and now it's bad enough for you to nearly start a war?" I scolded him, feeling a little out of place as I did.

"Bloodlust is always worse when paired with actual lust." He explained, eyeing me pointedly. My face glowed with heated embarrassment as I remembered the incident in the car, even as my wolf perked up at the topic. "I do have control. Enough not to rip someone's throat out. It just doesn't always stop me from biting someone's head off, figuratively of course. Besides, she was doing it on purpose to provoke me."

"So your reason for threatening to kill them was 'she started it'?"

"I didn't say it was a good reason."

"You're lucky I was there to mediate." I took the opportunity to point out how invaluable I had been, proud of my success on my first real pack related task.

"I know." He answered sincerely. "Thank you."

I nodded at him, awkwardly running my fingers over the delicate curtain, unsure what else to say. A stream of light stabbed through the sliver of window my movements revealed. Squinting against the blinding ray, I pulled the curtain open, hoping to identify the source of the beam. The street was dark, illuminated only by a lamp from the small shop across the road. Another stab of light pulled my attention to a round object reflecting brightly in the window. The whole thing seemed rather inconspicuous, so I brushed it off and released the curtain, allowing it to drift back into place in front of the window.

Turning back to Atlar, I noticed he was still looking at me, intense eyes watching me appraisingly. An idea occurred to me, and I wondered where it had come from. It seemed outlandish that I would even consider such a thing, but the question tugged at me anyway, and I battled with myself over whether to ask it. A gentle nudge from my wolf encouraged me to voice my enquiry, and when I hesitated, an aggressive mental shove had me stuttering out the words.

"So...are you still…umm…"

"Horny?" He chuckled, deliberately finishing my sentence in a way that would catch me off guard, smiling at my red face and taking a step towards me. "Maybe. Depends why you're asking."

My wolf paced excitedly, suddenly very interested in the conversation. I took a deep breath to steel myself, and managed to get out a full sentence.

"Hungry. I was going to ask if you're still hungry."

"Oh," he mumbled in his surprise. "Yes." The humour was gone from his voice, replaced by an inquisitive interest as he narrowed his eyes at me, as if that would help derive my intention.

"Obviously," I spoke slowly, choosing my words carefully. "A human volunteer in our current…situation…would be out of the question."

"Right," he answered quietly, not wanting to distract me from whatever path I was taking.

My heart pounded with my train of thought, and I again tried to speculate as to why such a thing would cross my mind. But the more I pondered it, the more I realized that I wanted it. Whether to simply be helpful, or for something else entirely, I didn't know. For reasons I couldn't explain, it felt right.

"Well, maybe I could…umm," I floundered, the thought that he might see it differently making my words sticky and difficult to get out. Atlar had said the act could be intimate, and I wasn't sure how to go about offering such a thing. "Maybe it would help if I-, I mean, if you wanted, I could-"

His eyes brightened with realization, and his lips pulled into a mischievous grin as he took another step towards me.

"Makara," he began, his voice heavy with lusty implications. "Are you asking me to penetrate you, and lap up the hot fluids that flow from the gaping hole?"

Is that what I was asking? Technically, yes. If he fed on me his actions would be more or less how he described them.

I gulped, swallowing the stone that had formed in my throat. His words had a double meaning, that was clear. No doubt, for the smirk on his face, deliberately chosen for it's alternative interpretation. Although his version wasn't quite what I had intended, I had to admit it had a certain appeal. What harm could there be in allowing him whatever form of penetration he desired? A jolt of excitement rushed through me as I imagined it, and my legs closed tightly against the pulsing between them.

Quickly shaking the image from my mind, I admonished my wolf for pushing such dangerous ideas into my already conflicted thoughts, done so smoothly I had hardly noticed. She swished her tail at me deviously, growling in blatantly exaggerated offense.

Atlar, presumably noticing my aroused discomfort, took pity on me, chuckling and alleviating some of the tension.

"I'd love to," he started eagerly and my stomach twisted into nervous knots. He paused, the severity of the moment sinking in in the silence. "But I can't." With effort, he stepped away, clearly unsure what to do with his hands as they settled restlessly on his hips.

"What?" The word was barely a whisper on my confused lips. My heart sank in dejection, and the disappointment I felt, although unexpected, was palpable. "Right. Of course. It was a stupid idea anyway." I tried to save face as I admonished myself inwardly. I had known he might not be interested, but the rejection still hurt intensely. I felt vulnerable, and I was embarrassed to have said anything at all.

"No," he reached a hand out to touch me, deciding against it before pulling back. "That's not what I meant. I won't lie, I'm very surprised that you would offer to let me feed on you, but I deeply appreciate the fact that you did. You can't possibly know what that means to me. And believe me, I really would love to. But Vampires were not designed to feed on other supernatural creatures. Ingesting your blood would be like swallowing acid to me. It would burn relentlessly on the way down, and then cause so much turmoil that my body would find a way to purge it. It is extremely painful and uncomfortable."

"Oh," my voice was barely audible. "I don't want that."

I was still disappointed, but his reason had made me feel a little better, knowing it wasn't me he was rejecting, it was the agonizing pain.

He took a breath as if to speak, but kept his words trapped behind his closed lips, pressed tightly into a thin line. It was clear that he wanted to say more, but struggled with whether or not he should. I watched him for a moment to see what he would decide, and almost immediately, an awkward silence settled over the room.

Chapter Text

The silence didn't last long, and before I even realized what was happening he had me in his arms, his lips crashing against mine in a blur of hard muscle and midnight hair. It was instinct to kiss him back, and I wrapped myself around him when he easily lifted me off my feet.

I opened my lips to the gently dominating demand of his tongue, shivering as a groan rumbled through him. His hands were on my ass, squeezing and kneading while using his grip to support me. He pulled me tighter, like I couldn't be close enough and I gasped at the pressure it put on my core.

Quickly covering the short distance to the bed, I yelped as Atlar dumped me unceremoniously onto the soft mattress, propping up on my elbows to look at him as he watched me from the end of the bed. My shirt had ridden part way up my stomach, and he devoured the revealed flesh with ravenous eyes. Sparing a quick glance at my hair, which had been sufficiently tousled, he returned his gaze to my face, making deliberate eye contact as he slowly peeled his shirt from his body.

As soon as I realized what he was doing I dropped my attention, following his shirt up as it exposed sculpted muscle after sculpted muscle. I heard him chuckle, the sound heavy and dripping with need. I licked my lips as his arms flexed above his head, pulling the shirt off and tossing it to the floor.

I stared at him, waiting for him to continue stripping, unashamed by the way his features lit me on fire. With a subtle thrust of his chin, he motioned that it was my turn. I removed my shirt quickly, having no intention of waiting any longer than I had to before he was back on top of me. He smiled, hungry eyes raking over my bare chest, before he motioned to me again.

My impatience winning out, I swiftly shimmied out of my jeans and panties and threw them on the floor, despite the fact that it was his turn. I was naked, bare to his eyes and I should have been self conscious with him just standing there, watching me. But with the way he displayed his desire, so complete and intense it was nearly tangible in the air, I could manage nothing but confidence.

He unbuttoned his pants, sliding the zipper down teasingly. I swallowed to try and wet my mouth, long gone dry in anticipation. His pants hung open in a tempting 'V', the outline of his thick shaft clearly visible against the fabric of the boxers that kept it hidden from sight. Damn boxers, always getting in the way of my fun.

His eyes dark with yearning, he gripped his arousal through the cloth, squeezing just enough to elicit a low groan, then thrust his chin at me again.

I knew what he wanted. With almost no hesitation, I shifted my weight to one elbow, sliding a hand into the heat between my legs. I imagined it was his hand, his fingers delving into my slick folds, stoking the flames he had ignited.

I wanted to lean my head back, close my eyes against the pleasure, but more than that I wanted to see him. So I forced my eyes open, concentrating on the burning need I saw in his. Without meaning too, I allowed a whispered moan to escape me. Smiling, I did it again, pleased by the way his hand squeezed just a little bit harder when he heard me, his own groans filling the air to match mine. It was clear that he liked what he saw, and the knowledge that I could cause such a reaction made me feel powerful.

Moving my hand lower, I dipped a finger inside me, gasping as the feeling pushed the air from my lungs. I pressed the heal of my palm against my little bundle of nerves, rolling my hips forward to increase the pressure. Curling my finger to tease the wonderful spot inside me, the combined pleasure forced my back to arch and my chin to point towards the ceiling, my eyes squeezed tight in bliss. Having lost my view, I concentrated on the noises he made, the primitive and masculine sounds sending jolts of electricity straight to me core.

Instinctively, my hand moved faster, my hips rolling to match the rhythm. An almost constant chorus of moans and mewls fled my mouth, and every one of my muscles began to clench in excitement for my impending release. I barely heard Atlar's satisfied growl rumble through him as the wave washed over me, the intensity nearly drowning me. I kept my hips bucking against my hand, drawing out my orgasm, enjoying every spasm of pleasure until it was too much.

I kept my eyes closed as I enjoyed the aftershocks that rolled through me, waiting for my pounding heart and empty lungs to calm down. Satisfied with the progress and tempted by the promise of a chiseled chest, I fluttered my eyes open, straining against the bright light of the room. Shifting my weight back to both elbows, I looked back to Atlar, the mischievous grin painted on my face quickly disappearing with what I saw.

Rodan. His hand deep in his pants, the thin barrier of his boxers doing nothing to hide his movements. I was shocked by the sight, and tried to convince myself that was all I felt, ignoring the renewed excitement that wound its way back through me. The last thing I saw was the blurry edge of my brother changing shape before I woke up, springing ramrod straight and scouring the room for movement.

Soft moon light poured in from the window, leaving a sliver of bladed rays dividing the room, but I was alone.

It was a dream. All of it. Well, almost all of it. I rubbed my fingers together, the evidence of my actions making the movement slick. I still felt the ghost of aftershocks ebbing through me, and fought against squeezing my legs to enjoy the feeling once more.

Frustrated, I laid down, flopping backwards with a disgruntled groan. The dream had seemed so seamless, so real, and I found myself wishing it had included more than just our naked endeavours. Unfortunately, my impulsive offer to be Atlar's snack was burned forever in my memory by the heat of my embarrassment when he turned me down. I replayed the whole scenario. He was nice about it, but I still felt stupid in the thick silence that followed, and when he left the room, I took the opportunity to go to sleep, hoping I wouldn't have to face him when he came back.

And then I found out what happens when I go to bed thinking about him. Why would I have expected anything less?

It was then that I realized I shouldn't have been alone. Atlar told the humans we were mates, and we were only given one room, he should have been there.

An unfamiliar noise drew my attention to the bathroom, and for the first time I noticed the light that streamed through the crack under the closed door. The sound continued even as I tried not to listen, nearly entrancing me with its rhythmic wetness. Instinctively, I sat back up, trying to identify it, ignoring the fact that it was a huge invasion of privacy.

One muffled, breathy moan from the other side of the door was all it took for me to clue into how warm I had become, how the pulses in my own body matched the ones that sounded so clearly in my sensitive ears. I was vaguely aware of my wolf pacing back and forth, her tail swishing repeatedly, like a whip cracking again and again. She was as effected as I was, and I had no doubt she had something to do with my inability to stop listening.

I wondered at my lack of control even as my hearing focused, in time to catch the rhythm quicken, and the moans to become more fervent. A final strained grunt had me clenching my core, all remnants of my actions during my dream gone and forgotten.

I picked up a scent, musky and masculine, and I inhaled deeply, searching for more. Snapping to my senses I realized exactly what had happened, and worked to control my breathing which had evidently become labored during my eavesdropping. The toilet flushed, and my face heated at my discovery.

I started as the door swung open, and I squinted against the assaulting light that flooded the room before Atlar clicked it off.

"You scared me," I muttered, feigning the heaviness sleep brings to your words, hoping the exaggerated shock would hide the true reason for my breathlessness.

He smiled at me, and I swallowed hard as his knowing gaze saw right through me.

"Were you listening to me?" He accused playfully, allowing the grin to leave his face, in favor of a mischievously raised eyebrow.

"Not intentionally," I answered, sounding more awake. "What exactly were you doing?" I hoped to get any half believable explanation, anything but what I already knew to be true.

"You couldn't tell?" He eyed me, scrutinizing the shades of red that painted my cheeks. There was a question on his face, something he seemed to be searching for, and apparently found when the the realization pulled the corner of his mouth back into an impish smirk. "Or, you could tell, but you want to be wrong?"

I ignored the question, instead focusing on the apology I thought he was owed.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to intrude, or make you uncomfortable."

"I'm not uncomfortable." He shrugged. "Besides, it's not like I could avoid listening to you either."

The renewed embarrassment stung like salt in a fresh cut, and I nearly hissed as if the wound were to my body, almost wishing it was. Anything over the mortification I felt.

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry for that too," I muttered, resigning myself to the situation I was in.

"Don't be."

That was the second time he told me not to be sorry. But this time there was an intensity to his words, like he couldn't stress the importance of them enough. I watched him for a moment, before dropping my eyes, unable to face the ferocity of his gaze any longer.

When I felt brave enough to look back I couldn't see him anymore, but I could still pick out his scent in the air, and hear the thumping sound of his heart and the soft exhale of his breathing. Leaning forward, I crawled to the edge of the bed, peering over the side. Atlar was laying on the ground, blanketless, with a single, thin pillow and his folded hands behind his head.

"What are you doing now?" My curiosity had me blurting out the question before I could remember how badly it had turned out last time, and I clenched my teeth waiting for the answer.

"Sleeping?" He answered in a tone that told me he didn't know why I was asking.

"On the floor?"

"Ah, yes, well, we never discussed sleeping arrangements and you were already out when I got back to the room, so I didn't want to just climb into bed beside you. I'm trying to be a gentleman."

"What if the humans come in and find you on the floor?"

He shrugged in response.

"I guess I'll tell them we had a fight."

"Did we?" I asked him, wondering if I had ruined anything with my offer, or my actions. I knew he could see the worry in my eyes, and he took an extra moment to emphasize his answer.

"No. Not at all."

"Good. Then come to bed." I flopped back over to my side, my stomach knotted in a net of fluctuating emotions. I was relieved I hadn't torpedoed anything with Atlar. It was easy to talk to him and I enjoyed being around him. But I was simultaneously excited and nervous about the prospect of sharing a bed. He sat up, putting his head just above the horizon of the soft blanket, hesitating before making his move. "It's a big bed. Plenty of room for both of us…to sleep," I added, hoping the clarification wasn't necessary. "I insist."

He nodded, pulling himself off the floor and settled under the blanket, the mattress dipping slightly with his weight as he did so.

I laid awake the rest of the night, my nerves causing too much turmoil to allow me any rest. The slow, rhythmic breathing I heard from his side of the bed told me he didn't have the same problem and I slowly peeled back the blanket, carefully stepping onto the cold floor as soon as the light from the window indicated an acceptable time.

I grabbed my phone, some toiletries, and a change of clothes before ducking into the bathroom, careful not to wake Atlar.

It was early, still hours before I would normally train with Cade. Not that I knew what was happening with that, I hadn't seen him since the committee meeting. Feeling obligated, I typed out a message to him anyway.

"I don't know what's going on here, but in case you're not avoiding me the way it feels like you are, I won't be available for training today." I didn't elaborate, hoping that his curiosity would push him to reply, although I didn't hold my breath.

I took a quick shower, resisting the temptation to reach between my legs as memories of the night fought for dominance in my thoughts. Forcing restraint on myself, I focused on the relaxing heat of the shower, finishing as quickly as possibly so as not to test the limits of my will power.

Tiptoeing out of the bathroom, I put my stuff away, pausing to make sure I hadn't disturbed Atlar's sleep, watching him momentarily. He laid on his back, the blanket strewn haphazardly around his hips, his bare chest gently rising and falling. He was rather good looking, his body all hard lines and sculpted muscles, I could see why I was attracted to him. I still wondered how I had dreamt of him before ever knowing who he was, but I pushed the thought aside, not willing to have any more unanswered questions than I already had.

He started to move, his unconscious leg kicking at the blanket as if there had never been anything more stifling than the thick layer of down that covered him. Worrying my bottom lip I debated whether to try and sneak a peak at the thin boxers I knew he was wearing, having already decided against it when a light flashed passed my eyes. I squinted in surprise, looking for the cause as soon as I could manage to open my eyes again and found a new brightness on the wall behind me.

It was perfectly circular, more deliberately cylindrical than the sun's rays appeared to be. I could see the beam, a line of floating dust across the room. As I watched, the light danced on the wall, as if the source were moving. It came from the window, and as I approached I realized the curtain was open much farther than it had been last night, brushing it off as something Atlar must have done after I went to sleep.

The light wiggled again, drawing a tight, frantic pattern on the wall, almost impatiently. Squinting in case of another visual attack, I peered out the window, hoping for a quick resolution to the mystery light. It passed by me another couple of times, just long enough to draw my attention to the window of the small shop across the street. I admonished myself for not looking there immediately, I had seen the same light coming from there yesterday, the same round object reflecting brilliantly on a cloth covered table.

Sighing, I made to turn away, but movement behind the object caught my attention. I moved the curtain aside more, hoping to get a better view of what it was. 'Or who,' I thought as I noticed the form of a woman. She seemed to be middle aged, for a human, and rather short, her long wild hair tied from her face with a colourful scarf.

As I watched, confused by the happenings, she raised a hand. Based on her appearance I expected it to be near skeletal, thin bones covered in a taut layer of flesh, so pale the light shone through it. I was almost surprised to see her hand was no different than mine, presumably boney, but with a healthy amount of muscle, tendon and skin giving it shape.

She beckoned, her disappointedly normal finger curling back towards herself. I looked down the street as far as I could see in each direction, trying to catch a glimpse of who she might be talking to. When I saw no one, I looked back to the woman. She was pointing at me, and as soon as I noticed she curled her finger, and beckoned me again.

I jumped back from the window, the encounter leaving me a little agitated and uncomfortable. I didn't know who this person was, why would she want anything to do with me? A part of me thought it was a better idea to stay away. Wait in the room until Atlar woke up, or until it was time to meet with the mayor again, although that was still hours away. But a needier part of me was curious, and I absolutely had to know what she wanted.

Chapter Text

I opened the door as quietly as I could, careful not to wake Atlar. There was a human soldier on the other side and I smiled at him innocently. He didn't stop me, but I noticed him following a short distance behind me. I ignored him, figuring he had his orders to protect. Whether he was protection for me or from me was anyone's guess. Probably both.

Opening the front door, I stepped aside, motioning for the soldier to go first. The colour drained from his face and when he stood stubbornly still, I shrugged and continued on.

The street was bare, too early in the morning for any significant traffic. I crossed it easily and looked up at the small shop in front of me. It was creepier up close. The dark bricks were cracked and stained, and angry looking vines crawled up every square inch of the walls. The light no longer reflected in the window, and the small awning gave the entrance a shrouded appearance. If I hadn't seen the old woman inside I would have sworn the place was abandoned.

A small, faded sign caught my attention and I strained to read it.

'Madame Fate, your future is known.'

"I hope you're not planning to go in there," the guard who had, up until now, seemed too afraid to talk startled me with his words. I had nearly forgotten he was there.

"I am."

"People don't really do that. The old lady is…strange, eccentric," he corrected himself.

I paused, taking his well hidden warning at face value.

I tried listening for a heartbeat from inside, but my sense of hearing was still hard to control. I kept getting confused with my own heartbeat, and that of the soldier next to me. My sense of smell was better, but there were too many scents spilling from inside to pick out any one. There could have been an army in there and I wouldn't have known.

"Do you know a fortune teller who isn't?" I asked him after a long, tense silence.

He didn't answer, and considering the topic settled I took a step towards the door, projecting more confidence in that one movement than I felt in my entire body.

The soldier stepped forward as well, visibly hesitant. Somehow, I knew I needed to go in alone, and I whirled on him to tell him so.

"I don't care what stalking orders you were given, follow me anywhere else, but I go inside alone."

He stuttered, searching for a word to protest, so I continued.

"Do you know what I am?"

He blanched, his teeth clenched and his face as white as a sheet, but after a short moment, he nodded slowly.

I found his reaction amusing, but managed to keep the small smile from my face.

"Then you know I'll be fine on my own. Wait here if you want, I'll be right back. I promise."

He looked relieved as I turned back towards the door.

With a quick, steeling breath, I forced myself to knock on the dry wood of the door and then turned the knob decidedly. It resisted for a moment, squeaking in complaint, but popped open with a bit more pressure.

Inside, with the door closed behind me, I felt my breathing quicken with my nerves, my heart pounding a distracting beat in my chest.

A desk by the front door welcomed me, adorned with the typical business cards and aesthetically pleasing display, putting the rest of the room in stark contrast.

The walls were lined with shelves, supporting rows upon rows of trinkets, gems and statues, no surface space going unused. One object in particular drew my attention, presented in the very center of the largest shelf. It was small, but noticeable, its black, metallic colour reflecting the lights from the abundant candles. They were everywhere, each producing their own strong scent.

A large, round table in the middle of the room took up most of the space, but there was room enough for the chairs that surrounded it, and to walk around unhindered. Another round table, much smaller and taller than the first sat under the window, covered in a blood red cloth. Displayed there was a crystal ball, and I identified it immediately as the object I had seen glinting through the window.

A curtain at the back indicated another doorway, and I could just make out a set of stairs past them, straining to see through the gap where the curtains didn't quite meet.

My eyes darted all over the room trying to memorize every detail, and my nose itched with every new scent, but for all the overwhelming stimuli for those two senses, it was eerily quiet.

"Hello?" I called out, my own voice sounding strange in the silence.

As if on cue, the old lady burst out from behind the curtains, flipping them to the side with exaggerated flair. It startled me, but I kept the shock well hidden.

"Hello, Dearie," she sang cheerfully, gliding her short frame to sit behind the desk in front of me. "It's so nice to finally meet you. I've been expecting your visit for weeks now, shame on you to make an old lady wait."

I wanted to tell her how ridiculous that was, that it was only decided I would join Atlar yesterday, and the incident that drove our need to visit had only occurred a week ago, but I decided against it. She was a fortune teller after all.

"The soldier almost wouldn't let me come in here," I said instead, motioning lazily behind me.

She looked at me and smirked.

"Something tells me he wouldn't have been able to stop you."

"He said people don't like coming in here."

"Yes, well," she started, frowning. "People don't like to hear the truth. For example, that soldier out there only wants to know that he will fall in love. He doesn't want to hear that it will be with a fledgling vampire who will feed on him and ultimately kill him."

I took a deep breath, the sharp pang of guilt forcing the air from my lungs. How was she so casual when someone's life was at stake.

"Would telling him change his fate?"

"Maybe," she shrugged. "I see what path he's on, but I cannot see all the variations."

"Don't you think you should try?" I asked her, hoping she wasn't just intending to let the man outside die, even if it was still years away.

"You're young. You have a heart of gold," she stated melodiously and I couldn't tell if she was being sarcastic. "But if I tried to save everyone who came in here with an early death I'd drive myself insane. It's exhausting to know things that have nothing to do with me. It's exhausting carrying the weight of their lives. I decided a long time ago I wasn't going to do it anymore," she sighed and shook her head, clearly forcing out old memories. "I have no interest in the happenings of humans, or vampires, or werewolves for that matter. My goals are my own, and any visions I have of others are promptly ignored, save if they pertain to me in any way."

"Then why am I here?" I decided to ask, disagreeing with her sentiment on helping others. If you had the ability to save people from an early grave, why wouldn't you? I struggled to understand and resolved to tell the soldier of his fate anyway.

"You're here, for your part, because you need to be. For mine, because I need something from you."

"I don't have any money," I blurted, suddenly remembering the cards on the desk meant this was a business.

"How convenient, since it's not money that I want."

"What then?"

"Your hair. Just a lock of it," she clarified at my surprised face. "One strand of it would do."

"That's so-," I caught myself before I called her creepy, deciding insulting her wasn't the best idea. "Why would you want that?"

"I told you, my goals are my own." She held out her hand expectantly.

"So I give you a lock of my hair, and you….what? Tell me my future?"

"Oh no. Magical creatures are hard. I know next to nothing about your future."

"Then wh-"

"I do, however, know a particular detail about your present that might interest you."

"So let me get this straight," I started incredulously. "I give you a lock of my hair, a literal piece of me, and you tell me something I might very well already know?"

She shrugged, fiddling with a piece of paper and picking up a pen to twirl in her fingers.

"I don't think so," I told her, turning to walk away.

"Alright," she sang, drawing my attention back to her. She was drawing something on the piece of paper. "If you insist. But I can tell you what this is." She pushed the paper forward, spinning it around so I could see it.

I had seen the symbol before; it was in my dreams when I was shifting, and….somewhere else. I couldn't quite place my finger on.

"You know what this is?" I asked, more excitement in my voice than I had consciously permitted. "You'll tell me?"

"For a lock of your hair," she repeated, stressing each word individually.

"Okay," I agreed reluctantly, feeling a mix between desperation and trepidation. It seemed such a small price, but it was still a piece of me.

She reached forward, plucking a strand from my head as gently as she would a weed from her garden. It stung, and my hand went up to rub at the sore spot.

"Omega," she said, looking to me as if it were now time to worship her.

I had heard the word before. Amrita had said it to Silas during the meeting, or at least I thought she had. It should have been impossible for me to hear, so I figured it had been a made up detail from the stressed mind of a shifting wolf. Realizing how wrong I might have been to assume that, I waited anxiously for the rest of her explanation.

"That's it?" I asked when she continued to stare at me silently.

"You paid me for one detail, that's what I gave you."

"You said the detail pertains to me, in the present."

"It does."

"But how?"

"You didn't pay me for that."

Frustrated, I pulled out another strand of my hair, dropping it on the desk between us. She brushed it to the floor disgustedly, as if she hadn't just shoved the other in her pocket.

"What? I paid you more, so now you have to tell me more."

"No, you paid me for the detail. Past that, you have nothing that I want, so you're on your own. Although, you might try the bookstore down the street, they might have something of interest."

She skipped to the back of the room, decidedly quicker than when she had appeared, and veiled herself behind the curtain.

"Seriously?" I called out into the room. When there was no answer I gave up and grabbed the drawing from the desk, retreating outside.

The sight of the soldier reignited the guilt of knowing his future, and I searched for a way to tell him what I'd learned. He already seemed afraid of me, so I knew the straight forward approach might freak him out even more. I searched for a way to pretense it, hoping it might help.

"What's your name?" I asked him, thinking it might be easier to tell him if I knew.

He looked at me, clearly surprised by the question, but after a short pause, he answered.

"Oliver,"

I smiled at him.

"Well, Oliver, I have a piece of-, I mean I think maybe you should-, I learned that-," I sighed in frustration. There didn't seem to be a right way to approach this. He watched me stutter over my words, no doubt wondering if I was having a stroke. "Can I tell you something?" I finally settled on.

He eyed me quizzically, analyzing the situation, his gaze darting between me and the door of the shop behind me.

"Is it about me?"

I nodded.

"Is it bad?"

I nodded again.

"Then I think I'd like to keep it a mystery if that's alright," he told me. He offered a small smile, and although I was sure of it's genuineness it didn't reach his eyes. He didn't seem afraid anymore, and I was slightly surprised at how quickly it had transitioned. Perhaps witnessing my struggle to do something as basic as form a full sentence had humanized me in his mind.

I was almost annoyed that he didn't want to know, that the information was my burden that he refused to relieve me of.

I tried to put myself in his shoes. For me, this was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Eventually, Oliver, his life and his death, would fade from my memory. If I were him, I would also rather live in ignorance than fear. To be constantly waiting for the moment of your death, not knowing exactly when it would arrive would be more torturous than the moment itself.

I sighed again.

"Can I at least give you a piece of advice?"

He pressed his lips into a thin line, tilting his head just slightly in permission.

"Just remember that fledgling Vampires can't be expected to know their own limits, let alone yours."

His eyes narrowed, instinctively trying to work out the bigger picture with the small clue he was given. He gave up quickly, a layer of defiant confusion still visible on his face. Eventually, he nodded in silent acknowledgement.

The topic at hand having been ignored for, what felt like, far too long, my attention was drawn to the paper in my hand. It was porous and rough, feeling nearly like sandpaper against my skin.

"Is there a book store near here?" I finally asked.

We walked together down the street, the sounds of our footsteps the only thing to break the comfortable silence.

'You've been distant,' I said to my wolf the moment I noticed she was alert in my mind.

She pushed through a number of feelings, not the least of which was frustration. She didn't like the way I handled being caught eavesdropping on Atlar.

If she had her way every situation involving a man I was even remotely attracted to would end with me flat on my back or bent over some surface. Or perhaps I would be held in the air, or straddling with my knees spre-.

I cut myself short, knowing that my face enflamed at the thought. I was very thankful that my connection to my wolf was private.

As for the rest of the morning, the first task, dealing with the fortune teller, was creepy. The second, telling the soldier his future, was unpleasant. So she had steadfastly refused to participate in either. How nice of her to tell me.

"This is it," Oliver spoke, drawing me away from my wolf.

A small bell rang as he opened the door and held it, waiting for me to go inside.

The shop was smaller than the last one, offering just enough space between the shelves for somebody to walk comfortably. I ran my hand along the spines of the books as I walked. Each one seemed to be well taken care of, bound in leather or other fading materials, but very old.

"Is there something in particular you're looking for?" Oliver asked me.

His question refocused me and I handed him the paper from my hand, having already memorized the symbol.

"Something about Omegas."

We split up in our search and within a few minutes Oliver was returning, a small, leatherbound book in his grasp. He handed it to me wordlessly. The cover had the same symbol the fortune teller had drawn. I ran my finger along the embossment before opening the book to read the first chapter.

'The Alpha-Omega Bond'

"Oliver, this is perfect. It's exactly what I'm looking for," I told him, immediately diving in to the content. My eyes widened in excitement, my mind teeming with new found solutions to long unanswered questions. I almost didn't notice him leave and return; I was so immersed in the short chapter of the bond.

He pushed a receipt into my view, tucking it swiftly between the two pages I was reading. The action brought my thoughts back to the present, making me realize that I had been so distracted by the book I hadn't even thought about leaving the small shop. Of course I would need to leave eventually, and naturally I would want to bring the book with me. They wouldn't exactly have allowed me to just walk out without paying, and I was on a diplomatic mission; stealing wasn't an option.

Oliver had fixed the problem before I even realized there was one, and I was near speechless in the face of his kind act.

"Oliver, you didn't have to do that," I finally managed after a handful of stuttering false starts.

"I know, don't worry about it."

"You're sure?" I asked him, offering him the obligatory chance to change his mind, hoping desperately that he would turn it down. The tension made the second it took him to answer feel like hours, hours that my wolf used to flick her tail, demonstrating her complete indifference to his response. She didn't care why things were the way they were.

"I'm sure." He shrugged. "Call it payment for advice services rendered."

I hugged him, unashamedly clinging to him after barreling into his chest with a resounding thud and a surprised grunt from above me. He chuckled, patting my back awkwardly before we pulled apart.

The walk back to the Mayor's house was much quicker, driven by my need to show Atlar what I had found. Oliver took up his post by the door as I went into our room. Atlar was on the bed, leaning against the headboard with his legs stretched out, crossed at the ankle.

"Look!" I virtually shouted in my uninhibited elation. I plopped the book down in front of him, covering the phone he had been holding in his hands. His phone still hidden underneath, he grabbed the book, staring at me with a confused eye before looking to the page I had left open.

"Look," I told him again, tapping the page for emphasis. "This book tells me exactly what's been going on with me. I'm an Omega."

"An Omega?"

"Yes, and look here," I pointed to the page, reading from my awkward angle above him. "The Alphas and Omegas are drawn to each other, a sexual and emotional bond created to mitigate the sheer advantages of both in question."

Atlar opened his mouth to speak, but my excitement wouldn't let him.

"Basically Alphas and Omegas are overpowered so the Moon Goddess made them drawn to each other to give them each a weakness, but that doesn't matter."

"It doesn't?"

"No. What matters is that I now know why my brother and a man twice my age want me, AND why I want them back!"

I waited for his reaction, fully expecting it to match my own level of energy.

"What about me and Cade?"

"What?"

"We're not Alphas, but you're attracted to us both," he explained, a smirk pressed deliberately to his lips.

"Well, I can't help that," I waved him off before realizing what I was saying. "You're both my type."

He chuckled, and before either of us could say anything else there was a knock on the door. It swung open and a soldier told us the Mayor was ready to see us.

It was a boring meeting that lasted hours, but eventually the Mayor was apprised of all of our ways and traditions, the Alpha successions, the Vampire hierarchy, true mates and how they work for the different species, and countless other details that would facilitate our treaty.

By the time we got in the car and readied ourselves for the drive home I was exhausted. But the book still held secrets that I needed to uncover, so I read the entire way.

Atlar and I parted ways on the top floor, and when I opened the door to my suite Silas was already waiting.

Chapter Text

"Ah, Makara," Silas started, standing up from the couch. "You're back."

I smiled at him as he approached, dropping my bag to the floor and letting him wrap his arms around me. The hug was chaste and sweet and I breathed the familiar scent deeply.

"I missed you," he whispered, squeezing a little tighter before letting me go. "Did you have a good time?"

"Silas, it was amazing." I stalled, my mind struggling to decide which event to discuss. I was excited to tell him of my discovery, but I knew it was more important to the pack to inform the Alpha of our new treaty with the humans. "The humans were written into-"

"Stop," Silas interrupted. "I don't care about that right now." He ran both hands along my arms, pulling me closer to him, as if our hug hadn't quite gone on long enough. The action was decidedly less chaste than our embrace had been, and a low growl of approval escaped from Silas. "There will be time to discuss that later."

My wolf perked up at the more intimate contact. It was difficult not to scold her. I still didn't want a relationship with Silas, but I knew she couldn't control her feelings any more than I could, and I now understood why I wanted him in my bed so badly.

"Surely it's important to-" I stuttered, trying to distract myself from the closeness.

"It is important," he finished for me. "But it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter without Atlar."

"Right, Atlar, of course," I inhaled against my tight chest, the subtle movement of Silas' hips making my breathing heavy.

I gasped in surprise as he gripped me shoulders, jerking me away from him to look intently into my eyes. His scrutiny bounced from one eye to the other as if he might find the answers to his deepest questions.

"Did something happen with Atlar?" He finally asked. The question caught me off guard. I briefly thought of my dream, but that couldn't be what he was talking about. I had dreams all the time and he had never asked for details before.

"What? What do you mean?"

"Did he hurt you?"

I was silent, trying to determine what had driven him to ask such a question.

"Makara, if he touched you, I'll have his h-"

"No!" I stopped him. "Nothing like that happened. Of course it didn't. Atlar was very kind, and nice to talk to. I like him."

Shit. The statement hit me harder than I thought it would and I hoped it had sounded more platonic than it felt.

"Good." He let me go after a long analytical moment. He walked over to the table, picking up a folder before handing it to me. "I have some news for you," he told me.

The folder had Emery's name on it, and both my wolf and I shrank back as we remembered the gore from my dream and the haunting look in her dead eyes when we found her. I chose not to open the folder, trusting Silas to give me all the information.

"The investigation is complete." My mouth went dry as I waited for him to tell me the rest. "There was no indication of foul play. It looks to be just a tragic accident."

I nodded. I didn't care for Emery, and I wasn't sad that I wouldn't see her again, but her death was still a needless waste of life, and I wasn't exactly happy about it either. I tried to let the fact there was no murderer wandering about comfort me enough to brush the topic away. My excitement from the trip simmered behind my morose, and I debated even bringing up the book I found.

"What is it?" Silas asked me in his unnerving way of knowing when something was wrong.

"I don't know. I'm happy about something, but it just feels…I mean doesn't it seem disrespectful? Emery's dead, and I'm happy?"

"Emery's own actions led to her death, and while it's certainly not pleasant to think about, you shouldn't let her take anything away from you."

He was right. She was never kind to me anyway, and her actions got me assaulted by my brother. It still nagged at me as I went to my bag to grab the book, but seeing the cover reignited my eagerness to show Silas, and I quickly forgot all about her.

"There was this creepy fortune teller with the humans, she told me about this book and I found it at a bookstore down the road from her shop." I handed the book to him, he took it without looking at it, never taking his eyes from me. "Silas, it explains everything, well mostly everything. It makes so much sense now. I'm an Omega."

He smiled, something akin to dismay flashing in his eyes.

"You knew?" I asked accusingly, the words leaving my mouth before I had even acknowledged the realization.

"No." He was quick to defend himself. "I didn't know, not for sure."

"But Amrita knew," I told him, remembering the meeting before my shift.

"What makes you say that? Did you talk to her?"

"No, I overheard her say it to someone."

"Impossible."

"Wha-"

"Amrita, said that to me. She said it so low that I could barely hear her, to stop all the other wolves in the room from listening, and you had run off before she even approached me."

"I thought it was weird at the time too, but I was…stressed…so I guess I forgot about it."

We were quiet for a long moment, an analyzing look knitting Silas' brow.

"Makara, I think you may have had a vision."

I tried to make sense of what he was saying. The book did state that Omegas were given visions as a means of communication or warning from the Moon Goddess. They were her right hand before the punishment, and knew things, through her, that they wouldn't typically know. This was her reason for bonding them to the Alphas, so each powerful wolf could foil the other. But since the punishment, our connection to the Moon Goddess was waning. Not just the Omegas, but the wolves as a whole. As her powers dwindled, Omegas became more rare, and their visions less frequent, to the point where most Omegas never even discovered their title. It seemed conceited to say I was powerful enough to retain the visions.

"Have you had any others?" Silas interrupted my thoughts.

"I'm not sure," I said, reluctantly recalling other things I had seen that I couldn't explain. "I think so."

"Tell me about them."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't understand them. I see things that don't make sense, hear things that aren't there. Almost like a memory, but it's not mine. It's fragmented. Like a puzzle, but I don't have all the pieces."

He pressed his lips into a concerned line and I could see a struggle in his tense muscles. What he was debating, I had no idea, and I wasn't inclined to ask. I was just elated to discover the connection to the Alphas, letting me write off my guilt of being attracted to a much older man and, worse, my brother. I hadn't thought about the other implications of my discovery.

Why was I having so many visions when the book said they were uncommon? What did they mean, and what was I supposed to do about it? I was naive to think the book answered all my questions. It merely gave me new ones to ask.

The thought of going down that rabbit hole was exhausting, and I pushed the troublesome topic away.

"I'm tired," I yawned, not waiting for Silas to say anything else. "I'm going to bed."

The sheets looked soft, and they called to me in my sleep deprived state as effectively as a cloud of silk, allowing me only enough time to undress before they demanded my presence in their warmth.

My last obtrusive thought before I sank into the dreamworld was whether or not Silas would replace his fuck buddy now that Emery was gone.

Morning came quicker than I would have liked, and I left my room, pawing at my eyes as they burned with the light.

Muffled breathing sounded in front of me, and I moved my hands for a view of Silas' ass, wrapped tightly with a pair of unknown legs. The sight shocked me, but I couldn't look away, watching as Silas' muscles rippled with every movement of his body

He raised himself up, pulling the woman with him as he sat back on his heels. She squealed in delight, followed by a low moan as Silas' hand disappeared between her legs. My core ached with jealousy.

I was drawn forward, curiosity and desire pushing me to take the few steps to the couch.

Silas wasn't surprised to see me there, and smiled before reaching out an inviting hand. I stepped closer, having just enough time to see myself writhing on the cushions beneath him before he wound his fingers through my hair, pulling me towards him.

The woman on the couch was me. It seemed obvious now. How could I have missed it?

He kissed me, drawing my attention away from the doppelganger as his tongue thrust forward to meet mine.

There was nothing in the world but him, him and his kiss. There was no thought of stopping, no concept of the idea. I needed him. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I closed the remaining distance between us, our naked chests colliding over the top of the couch.

When he finally pulled away, Silas was gone, leaving Rodan in his place. It didn't matter, not really, and I lunged forward to reclaim his lips.

A muscled hand circled gently around my neck, stopping my movement. Rodan raked his eyes across me, leaving no inch unscoured.

He smirked as his fingers began to trace the path his gaze had just taken. My eyes fell closed, his touch leaving goosebumps wherever it passed. He pulled his hand away, and I snapped my eyes open at the sudden loss of contact.

My new view showed Rodan above me, the soft cushions of the couch supporting our combined weight. It was clear I had taken my doppelganger's place, and I didn't bother trying to figure out where she had gone.

Rodan gripped my neck again, focusing my attention on him before pulling his hand back and dealing a sharp slap to my face. It didn't hurt, but I blinked in surprise, his form growing fuzzier with each flutter of my eyes. He raised his hand to my cheek again, and I nearly pulled away, my eyes pinched in anticipation. His thumb caressed the red skin gently, clearing away the sting with ease.

I let myself look at him, and I wasn't surprised to find the delicate touch belonged to Atlar. A smile on his lips, he leaned forward, hiding his hard length tightly between his stomach and my exposed sex. He placed a soft peck on my cheek, then one on my lips before moving his trail of kisses down my neck. He stopped his descent at my collarbone, teasing the sensitive skin and wrapping his arms tightly around me.

He scooped me up with ease, as though I were no more than a doll, and lifted me off the couch. I clung to him desperately, not willing to let his movement put an inch of space between us. He carried me across the room, pressing my back against a sturdy wall, so tightly he needed only one hand to support me, and let the other wander my body.

Two more hands joined his in their exploration, and I realized with pleasure that the wall I was against was not one of brick and mortar, but of muscle. There was someone behind me. Cade, I assumed.

I leaned my head back on Cade's shoulder, allowing the men the freedom to do as they pleased, enjoying their ministrations immensely.

A gruesome scream broke through the fog of my desire, and pain shot through my knees as the strong arms holding me disappeared and I hit the floor. The sudden shift from pleasure to pain was jarring, and it took a moment to fully register the change.

I was surrounded by darkness, a single streetlamp in the distance the only source of light. Having no other options, I walked towards it, slowing as I noticed a figure on the outskirts of the beam.

The Moon Goddess stared at me with bloodshot eyes as I approached, her sunken cheeks giving her a sickly appearance. The sight of her drove fear into me, although I couldn't say exactly why.

I tried to speak to her, to ask her what was wrong, but pain exploded behind my eyes, a white flash searing my vision, making it impossible to see. I rubbed them until the pain dissipated, and when I finally opened them, I was laying in my bed, drenched in a cold sweat with a heartbeat so loud I thought it might wake Silas.

It was a vision. Of that, I had no doubt. But I was frustrated. I didn't understand it, and I didn't know what to do about it. A hot shower and a quick breakfast was distraction enough, and I headed out the door with a new determination.

I headed to the basement training area. It was still early, but I was hoping to catch Cade training with Bash, as he always did before our sessions. Cade had been avoiding me, ditched me on my first training session after my shift and ignored my text when I was with the humans. Bash had even helped him, refusing to let me talk to him when I had forgotten my phone. They were both in for an earful.

Nobody bothered to look at me when I opened the doors, and I scoured the room for the two familiar faces, realizing quickly that they weren't there.

My wolf paced back and forth, our combined frustration driving me to run the stairs to the floor above two at a time, hoping to reach the outdoor sparring area as quickly as possible.

It didn't take long, and I soon spotted the two men through the window in the door. They were both shirtless and locked in mock combat, the sweat from their efforts glistening brightly under the sun. For a moment it looked like Bash had an advantage, but a sudden move from Cade put Bash squarely on his back. He laid on the ground, panting, before reaching up to accept Cade's extended hand. With both of them back on their feet, they separated, each of them drinking from a bottle of water.

I watched as Cade sat on a bench, pulling a towel from his bag and dabbing his face. Although I enjoyed the view, and the sharp muscles of his chest threatened to distract me, I focused on my mission.

As a test, I brought out my phone, dialing Cade's number without bothering to bring it to my ear. He fished through his bag, pulling out his phone and looking at the display. He swiped at the screen, then tucked it away.

My anger renewed, I threw open the door.

"What the hell, Cade?"

Both men stood as I walked in, but neither said anything. Bash's eyes were wide, as if he had been caught doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing, but Cade just stared at me, expressionless, his face and jaw set in defiant stone.

"I'm here to spar," I told Cade. "Unless, for some reason, that's an issue."

Cade didn't answer. In my peripherals I could see Bash looking frantically between us before stepping forward.

"I'll spar with you, Makara. You're still little, but not so easy to break now."

"No, Bash, you won't." He stopped in his tracks. "Cade is my trainer, not you. But he's been avoiding me since I shifted, and you've been helping him."

My wolf snorted in agreement, and I took my eyes off Cade just long enough to shoot an accusing look at Bash, who shrank under my scrutiny. Cade didn't react at all, nor did he move as I approached him.

"Am I wrong?" I took his silence as an answer. "Why?"

More silence.

"C'mon, Cade. Spar with me," I goaded him, lunging forward to push his shoulders. He jumped back, dodging my attack. "Or at least tell my why you won't." I lunged at him again, and once more he avoided me. I feigned a left hook, and just as he leaned out of my path, hoping to dodge yet another hit, I pulled back, sending my right fist instead. I wasn't fast enough to hit him, but although he couldn't avoid the punch, he easily blocked it, grabbing my wrist on reflex, dropping it the second he realized what he had done.

It was too late. As soon as his skin touched mine, I felt it. The thrill that sent every cell in my body into overdrive. The shock that made me ache for more, igniting a fire in my veins that I never wanted to go out. The feeling of completeness.

Even after he let go, it was still there, a gentle tingle urging me to reach forward, seeking the connection again.

I had never felt it before, but all wolves knew the mate bond instinctively.

Chapter Text

I stood there, watching Cade, my breath coming in ragged pants. I tried to convince myself it wasn't true. That he hadn't been avoiding me just because he was my mate. Was he rejecting me? Cade wouldn't do that. Even before…this…I thought there was a connection. It had been annoying at the time, but now it just seemed right. Did I imagine it?

I reached out a tentative hand, needing the assurance of a second touch. He didn't make a move to stop me, but twitched as my fingertips made contact with his chest. His own breathing got harder as the mate bond ignited again, drowning out everything but Cade's pounding heart under my touch.

He was silent as I pulled my hand away, and I was vaguely aware of Bash watching us, clearly unsure of what to do.

I focused on controlling my breath, bringing it down to a slow and steady pace before focusing my gaze on Cade's eyes.

"You knew," I stated, realizing with frustration that it was the second time I had made such an accusation within two days. He didn't say anything, but his silence was answer enough. "How? How did you find out before me?" I asked. If we had touched, the bond would have ignited within me as well, but I had been clueless.

"At the meeting," he started, finally speaking now that he was backed into a corner. "When you started shifting, I touched your arm, but I think you were in too much pain to feel the bond."

I remembered him touching my arm, the burning pain of the contact a difficult thing to forget.

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"It doesn't matter-"

"It does to me," I interrupted him. "You knew I was hoping to find my mate. If you didn't want to be with me, you could have just said so." It seemed like such a simple solution, although admittedly, I would have been just as devastated.

"Makara, it's not that easy. It didn't seem like a good time. There's a lot going on, you had just shifted, Silas is all over you-"

"So you didn't want to overwhelm me?" I asked him sarcastically. "Great. Another man taking control over my life."

"That's not it," he was quick to defend.

"What is it then?"

"Silas is the Alpha. He's my father, and that puts me in a very delicate position."

"I'm your mate, Cade."

"I know," he growled, frustration evident in his tone. "And I'm glad it's you, but it doesn't make things easy."

My stomach leapt, and my wolf pranced in validation as Cade said he was glad we were bonded, but I pushed it down. He lied by omission, once again leaving me without a piece of information that was vital to me.

"So you just avoid it? To hell with our bond because your father has barbarically claimed dibs to something he has no right to?"

"It's not just-," he sighed, struggling to focus his thoughts. "It's complicated."

"Well let me know what you decide when you're done sorting it out," I spit the words like venom, turning on my heels and marching towards the door.

"Makara!" He called, turning me to face him with a gentle hand on my elbow.

His lips were on mine a second later, and despite my anger, I kissed him back.

He held me tight in our embrace, and my heart pounded heavily against my chest, my blood heating with every beat. It lasted only a moment, and when he pulled away he rested his forehead against mine, as if he hadn't been quite ready for the loss of contact.

"You're not the only one who's got shit to work through," he told me through heavy breaths. "Not everything is about you."

Feeling scolded, I stepped back, heading for the door once more, my wounded pride too swollen to allow me to stay.

He let me go.

I retreated to the stairs, climbing them slowly, an elevator ride much too quick for my swirling mind.

"Idiot," I admonished myself, the low murmur echoing off the concrete walls.

Cade was right. It wasn't about me, and my own insecurities let me forget that other people had issues too. I had to accept that, but it was harder than it seemed. It would have been easier had he told me from the beginning

'We're mates, but I need some time with it.'

My wolf flicked her tail, blowing a derisive snort through her nose. I rolled my eyes, knowing her meaning exactly. She was right too; it still would have hurt. But at least I wouldn't be angry.

The top of the stairs came all too quickly, and I padded back to the suite. Silas was up, reading his report and sipping his coffee.

My eyes did their customary inspection of Silas' bare torso as I closed the door behind me. I sighed. Not even the mate bond could damper my attraction for the Alphas.

Cade's concerns about Silas came back to me as I watched the older man on the couch. Cade hadn't been specific, and I wondered what exactly it was about Silas' feelings that gave him pause. Was it a 'bros before hoes' situation? Did he hide his feelings simply because Silas had them first, or was it more than that? Had Silas forbidden our union? But how would he have known to do that unless Cade told him of the bond? I discarded that idea quickly; Cade wasn't the sharing type.

I thought about telling Silas, of exclaiming right then and there that I had found my mate, but Cade's reluctance stopped me. He must have had a reason. I knew I had to trust my mate. There would be time to tell Silas later.

That issue resolved, I walked towards my room, pausing when another approach popped into my head. If Cade wouldn't tell me about the issues with Silas, maybe Silas would.

I sank into the chair across from him, trying to decide how I would start this careful interrogation.

"Something on your mind?" Silas asked without looking up from his report.

It was as good of start as any, and I ran with it.

"I was just thinking, I'm shifted now," I trailed off, waiting for him to peer at me over the top of his folder. "That means I'll be able to find my mate."

"Yes," he stated.

"So what happens whe- if…what happens IF I find him?"

"What do you mean?" He closed his folder, setting it on the coffee table in front of him. "Did something happen?"

"No!" I told him quickly, a stab of guilt going through my chest at my first outright lie to the Alpha. I was painfully aware of my own heart beating, and thankfully managed to keep it's rhythm. "No. Nothing. I was just curious what would happen. Hypothetically."

"If nothing's happened, then we have nothing to discuss."

I nearly faltered under his stare, ready to drop the whole thing and hide in my room, but I needed to know, and since Cade wasn't going to be forthcoming…it was the only way.

"Right, of course. But what if it had?" I persisted.

"Shouldn't I be the one worried about this?"

"Are you?" The question fell from my lips before I realized, and I clamped my mouth shut, waiting for the answer.

"No," he answered without hesitation.

"Why not?"

"Because. I know what the mate bond feels like, and no matter how strong it is, it's not enough. You'll still always want me."

"It's not the same. Love and lust, they're different."

"You think the mate bond equals love?" He chuckled. "Sure, it's close, and I certainly loved my mate, but do you think that if I hadn't already been fucking her it would have made a difference? Do you think I would have felt the same if I had been bonded to a complete stranger? The mate bond pulls two people together, it makes it pleasurable to be close to each other. It doesn't mean love."

It did to me. The thought formed in my mind before I had time to consciously acknowledge it.

The way I wanted Cade and the way I wanted Silas, were wholly different, although both were ever present and persistent. I wanted Silas, and Rodan for that matter, in my bed. I wanted their hands in places that set me on fire, and to take them inside me so fully I wouldn't be able to tell where I ended and they began. I wanted those things with Cade as well, but in addition to that I wanted our fingers interlaced. I wanted his lips touching mine, so gently that the feeling envelopes me, and I nearly lose myself in the warmth of his arms. I wanted to surround myself with him, with his smile, and his laugh that he would only offer to those closest to him.

I had only known he was my mate for a few minutes, and maybe Silas was right, that the bond was stronger because I had been attracted to him beforehand, but I loved him. Despite being angry and hurt, I loved him.

I set my jaw, unsure of what to say and still wary of revealing the truth. Silas watched me, and before I could say anything in response to him, he spoke again.

"Is this your way of telling me you won't be my Luna?"

With the chaos of the last few days I had forgotten he was waiting for an answer. It hadn't been my intention to give him one when I started this conversation, but his question was close enough to the truth, I didn't want to deny it.

"I don't want to hurt you," I told him softly, as if the volume of my voice had any impact on the pain he might feel.

"Then don't."

His answer shocked me. I didn't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't that.

"It's not that easy,"

"Isn't it?" He asked, continuing when I didn't answer. "You don't want to hurt me? Being without you hurts me. Being so close, but not allowed to touch you, hurts me. But watching you with another man? Makara, that would break my heart."

I couldn't say anything, guilt making my tongue thick, and my throat dry. I wasn't in control of his feelings, but I was still to blame, I was the cause of his pain and I hated it. My eyes burned, and threatened to spill, but I blinked the moisture away as Bridger spoke from behind me.

"Sir," he beckoned to Silas, ignoring me completely. I hadn't even heard him come in.

Silas nodded, and Bridger stalked off towards the Alpha's office.

"I nearly killed the last man who touched you," he told me, standing and closing the distance between us with a few short strides. He hovered over me, and I had to lean back in the chair to look up at him. He bent down, stealing a kiss from my lips. On reflex, I kissed him back. It didn't last long, but I could have kicked myself as he pulled away. "Faced with the same situation, I don't think I could control myself a second time."

He turned away, following Bridger casually down the hall to his office, leaving me to stew in my shock alone.

Had he just said what I thought he did? Or was I reading into it too far? Had he just threatened to kill my mate if he ever saw us together? Or was there another way to process that?

I didn't know for sure, but decided it was probably a good thing I had kept knowledge of Cade being my mate to myself.

I was all but convinced that Silas was saying things he didn't mean, but the idea that he would make such a threat, despite knowing how it would affect me if it were carried out, left a sour taste in my mouth. Once again, I was torn in regards to Silas, both pitying and poisoned by the toxic strength of his feelings. Cade may have been right about the complexity.

I spent the rest of the day in Silas' library, having found nothing in my Omega book to help the situation. I didn't know what I was looking for, something, anything, that could offer any advice. Maybe I could find some way to lessen the Alpha-Omega bond, to make it easier for Silas to see me with another.

I had avoided Silas and Bridger as they came out of his office earlier, unable to look at Silas quite the same way I had before.

Hunger tore through me as I read through a book on the Moon Goddess, looking for any indication of truth in the legends printed there. I looked in confusion to the plate on the small table beside me, the crumbs from my sandwich still dotting the white glass, the taste of it still on my lips. Just as quickly as it had appeared, the hunger fled, and I went back to scouring the book.

Just like every other book I had picked off the shelves, I found nothing that even mentioned the bond, let alone offered a way to manipulate it in any way. Frustrated, I let the book snap shut, sighing as I put it back in its place.

Reading for so long had made me tired, and my irritation with my lack of findings made me grumpy enough to want the day to be over, so I headed to bed, hoping not to run into Silas on the way to my room, relief flooding me when his place on the couch was empty.

Sleep fought me, but I eventually succeeded in falling into restless darkness.

Shadows danced across me, indecipherable from the surrounding blackness, but I knew they were there for the low whispering breaths that caressed my ears and neck as they flew by. I raised my hands blindly to try to catch them, my fingers passing through empty air with a sharp chill as they evaded me. When I finally made contact with one, a shrill scream tore from its mouth, and I let it go to cover my ears with my hands. The scream faded into silence, and I cautiously lowered my hands.

The gentle tinkling of water drew my attention, and I turned around, faced with the same haunting fountain I had seen before. It looked beautiful as the crystal clear streams flowed from it. Remembering what had happened before, I knew to keep my hands away, and watched as the water got darker and darker, until thick blood spurted from the taps, filling the pool completely and spilling at my feet.

"You have no time left," a distorted voice called from somewhere in the blackness, the sound booming, and all encompassing. I clutched my head as a dull pain started, growing more intense with every word from above me. "You have to act now."

I realized they weren't talking to me when another voice responded, just as loud and distorted as the last.

"Shut up. I know what I'm doing."

Chapter Text

I was alone when I left my room, and I breathed a small sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to face Silas. I didn't know what to say to him. Although I still wanted to believe it, I wasn't confident he was saying things he didn't mean, his stare while he was threatening my mate was too intense to brush aside as empty. But I still didn't want him. If anything, I wanted him less, and pitied and feared him more.

His door opened as I put on my shoes, his usual shirtless chest drawing my attention before I pulled my gaze away. I didn't have to look at him to know he was smiling, but he didn't say anything, and I slid out the door without breaking the silence.

'That was stupid,' I thought as soon as the door closed behind me. 'Ignore the Alpha whose home you're living in,' I admonished myself inwardly, positive I had just offended him, although I could have sworn I heard him chuckle from inside.

Using the door as a barrier to block out everything wrong on the inside of the suite, I focused on the hallway, wondering how I would block out everything outside it. Based on the time, I was sure I could find Cade and Bash training again. Maybe I could pretend nothing happened yesterday. Or maybe we could talk about it and work things out. I shook my head.

I wasn't necessarily angry anymore, as Silas' aggressive reaction put a bit more stock into Cade's words, but I still didn't think I was ready to talk to him. I wouldn't know what to say to him either. Besides that, Cade had stressed how it was HIS issues that prevented him from revealing himself as my mate, so was it my place to decide when we'd talk about it?

After a few frozen moments outside the suite, I decided to go on a run, and hoped it would turn out better than the last run I went on.

I tore through the forest, the impact from my pounding feet vibrating up my body in a way I found liberating. The trees blurred beside me, and I tasked myself with identifying their scent as I ran by. My wolf howled and pranced in joint excitement, jumping when I crossed over large stones or fallen trees as if it were her own muscles that carried us. I laughed, untouched by the stresses in my life, as if I had left them all behind, and stopped only when a small, crystal clear lake offered a tempting contrast to my overheated body.

I kicked my shoes off, but entered the water fully clothed, having been so drenched in sweat the moisture from the lake would have made little difference. Fully refreshed, I laid on a large rock outcropping that jutted out over the lake, letting the sun warm my skin comfortably, and dry my clothes. It didn't take long, and I was soon walking back to the hotel in near the same condition as I had left it in.

I took my time on the way back, stopping at every interesting plant or flower, and fawning over every tiny creature that crossed my path, but eventually I found myself entering the hotel and riding the elevator to the top floor.

I rounded the corner towards our suite, almost dreading going back inside, and was pleasantly surprised when Atlar's presence offered me a few more minutes of procrastination. We greeted each other, and I questioned him on why he was there.

"Silas just wanted to go over everything that happened with the humans," he told me.

"Right, of course," I responded, torn between being offended that I hadn't been included, and being relieved that I wasn't forced to be in the same room as him right now.

"Everything alright, Makara? You look a little pale."

"I don't know. Things are weird." I thought about lying, but realized quickly that I wanted to tell him. I wanted to put it out there, and since I had already developed a habit for telling him things I probably shouldn't, I gave in. "I found my mate, but he already knew and didn't tell me. I don't know if that means he doesn't want me, or-," I trailed off, not knowing how to finish the sentence.

"I'm sure it doesn't mean that," he said supportively. "He probably just has a lot going on. You should try talking to him."

"I thought of that too, but I'm not sure that he wants to talk to me."

A feeling of surprise enveloped me, foreign and confusing, as nothing had happened to initiate such a feeling.

"Did you tell her?" Atlar asked, clearly not to me.

I turned around to see who he was talking to, slightly shocked to see Cade there watching us. That surprise felt natural, like it was a part of me, but a slight annoyance crept through that was distinct, similar to my wolf's emotions when she pushed them on me, but a quick check with my wolf told me it wasn't her annoyance either. I brushed it aside, deciding it was probably nothing.

"No, he didn't tell me," I reminded Atlar, not questioning how he knew I had been talking about Cade. "I found out on my own."

Atlar smirked at me, and raised a questioning eyebrow to Cade, who set his jaw in response.

I looked between the two men. Cade stood with barely concealed anger threatening to bubble through his quiet facade, and Atlar, forever unphased, stared back casually, amusement tugging at the corner of his lips.

"Does someone want to tell me what's going on?" I questioned.

Cade sighed, and some of the tension released from his body, as if some weight had been lifted, or he had finally made a difficult decision.

"Not here," he said, not waiting for either of us to answer before he turned around and left.

Atlar followed him first, confident strides carrying him quickly down the hallway, and I scurried after them. Cade brought us to his own suite, holding the door open until we were all inside.

There was an awkward pause, until I broke the silence.

"What the hell is going on?" I demanded.

"Cade?" Atlar looked to him for an answer.

"Stop it," Cade chastised him.

"Why? Are you denying it?"

I watched the men argue with each other, desperately wanting to hear Cade's answer.

The strange annoyance appeared again, stronger this time, almost angry.

"Is it because I'm a man?" Atlar chuckled.

That confused me more. I thought we had been talking about me. I didn't have time to dwell on it, emotions swirling through me that I could barely identify before they fled. Anger, confusion, longing, defiant resolve, and other, more complicated ones. They continued as the men argued, and I only vaguely registered what they were saying.

"You're a vampire."

"That doesn't make me any less of a man, I assure you."

"I'm not attracted to-" Cade's voice was cut off mid sentence, and for a moment, everything went quiet as Atlar stepped forward, claiming Cade's lips as if they belonged to him.

My lips tingled with familiar electricity, the sensation spreading throughout my body like a shadow of memory. I could almost imagine what it would feel like to be in Cade's place, to have Atlar's hands on the back of my head, holding me close in a locking embrace as we kissed. A warring torrent of feelings barraged me, conflicted but determined, and although Cade was reciprocating the kiss, I knew he was about to push Atlar away.

"You're at least a little bit attracted," Atlar spoke, making a show of sniffing the air, which was indeed thick with the scent of both of them.

I tried to pay attention to what they were saying, but I heard without listening, too distracted by the feelings that were so obviously not mine. Cade had looked to be enjoying the kiss, had put his own hands in Atlar's hair and pulled him closer. How had I known he was about to pull away?

"That doesn't mean anything," Cade denied through heavy breaths. "Everyone knows that Vampires can manipulate arousal."

I hadn't known that, but regardless, Cade didn't believe that was the reason for his reaction, and I felt his desperation in trying to explain it away, as if I were floundering in my own search for an excuse. I felt it as if it were me. My eyes snapped up to Cade as I realized the cause of my confusion. I felt Cade's emotions as if they were mine.

I sent him a mental prod, the same as my wolf did to me when I wasn't paying her enough attention. He looked at me, the slight surprise I saw on his face quickly melting away to realization.

"Maybe," Atlar started, undeterred by Cade's protests, and oblivious to our silent interaction. "But we can't create it from nothing. All we can do is magnify it, and we can only do it with a bite."

Atlar hadn't bitten Cade. It was clear Cade's reaction had been genuine, and although Cade acknowledged the fact, I could tell he still wanted to deny it. He stayed quiet.

I thought back to everything I had felt since Cade appeared in the hallway, sorting through what belonged to me and what didn't. The anger was his, the defiance, the hesitation, the longing, all of it was his. We shared the confusion, although admittedly for different reasons.

I replayed the kiss, feeling the tingles again, and realized with surprise that it hadn't been my own memory of the mate bond I felt, the igniting kiss from Cade still fresh in my mind, but Cade feeling the mate bond with Atlar, and unknowingly sending the sensation over to me.

Before I knew what I was doing, I reached out, grabbing at Atlar's hand as if it held all the answers. I gasped as the mate bond exploded up my arm, filling my chest and stomach with butterflies, and my veins with heat. It felt right as he squeezed my hand and smiled brightly at me, before his mouth settled into a casual smirk.

I stared at him, unable to look away from the strange realization that Atlar was my mate as well.

"Vampires know their mates by sight," Atlar told me, not bothering to pull his hand away. "I knew the moment I saw you, you were both mine. What I didn't know is that you were each other's too, not until the meeting. I saw the same face Cade gave me when he touched your arm."

I remembered the night at the bar, how Atlar appeared to pin Cade to the wall with one hand. Not with pure strength, apparently, but surprise, as even the slight brush of Atlar's thumb on Cade's collar bone was enough to trigger the bond.

"It's a mistake," Cade spoke quietly. My hand fell from Atlar's as I turned to listen. "The mate bond has crossed the species barrier before, Vampires, and even humans sometimes, but it's never been three, not that I know of. It's a mistake, it has to be."

"Do you think the Moon Goddess makes mistakes?" I asked him.

"I think she plays jokes."

The pain that radiated through me when he spoke, his pain, was immense. He severed my connection to it as quickly as it had come, but it was too late, I already knew what was wrong.

"You don't think you're supposed to want us, it's easier if you don't, so you're pushing us away. You push me away because I'm the woman your father is in love with, despite the fact that I don't feel the same way about him, and Atlar-" I paused. "Well, I don't know why you're pushing him away, but I know that you don't actually want to."

Cade watched me quietly, unable to deny it.

"So your saying all I have to do is seduce him," Atlar stated bluntly.

"See, that's the point, right there," Cade blurted uncharacteristically, stalking across the suite to put some distance between us. "This doesn't work. Politically, you know your place, but privately you always have to be in control, the one leading the way. I'm meant to be the next Alpha of this pack, I don't know how to follow you."

Atlar smiled, a devilish intention pulling at the corner of his mouth, made clear by his following words.

"So you want to be dominant. Alright," Atlar started, sitting directly in the middle of the couch, his arms splayed out along the back on either side. "Dominate me."

A handful of images that fit that description, and a dozen more that didn't, flashed behind my eyes and although I couldn't tell if they had originated with me or Cade, I knew he had seen them too.

Unbidden images weren't really new for me. I had often thought about Cade and I, and more recently, Atlar and I, involved in various…situations. But the idea of them TOGETHER, the three of us-, I couldn't even finish the thought for the puddle it melted my brain into.

Cade seemed to be in a similar position. He watched Atlar with a carefully blank expression, the novelty that his problems could be solved with a simple conversation clearly hitting him like a slap to the face.

His whole body tensed and his chest rose with calculated breaths, no doubt intended to offset his pounding heart, so loud I could distinguish it easily.

Atlar, smirking proudly as he watched us both, moved his hand to rest on his leg, a mere inch from the clasp on his pants.

I nearly groaned as I picked up an aroused scent other than my own, recognizing Atlar's distinct aroma immediately. Cade's followed moments later, and I swallowed to wet my dry mouth.

Atlar shifted his hand again, playfully toying with the clasp that kept him hidden, his gaze darting between us, waiting for a reaction.

It was an interesting dynamic Atlar had set up. His words asked for someone else to be in control, but the power in this situation clearly remained with him, as Cade and I watched impatiently for what he would do next.

All progress of our earlier conversation was put on hold, Cade and I too distracted by Atlar's hand slowly pulling down the zipper on his pants to even remember what we had been talking about. I was flooded with feelings of desire, both Cade's and my own, and my wolf watched from behind my eyes, hungry with anticipation.

Atlar lifted his hips just enough to tug down the hem of his pants, confidently displaying his full length, grasped in a loose fist.

I looked between the two men, the lust on their faces, one barely contained and the other as free as Atlar's cock, fueling my own, before I let my gaze fall to Atlar's lap.

I needed to be closer, but I waited, knowing this particular display had been for Cade's benefit, I wanted to see what he would do. He shifted his gaze back and forth, to me, and then to Atlar, scarcely able to tear his eyes away from the other man.

Cade was hesitant, but he wanted it, I could feel it. He ached to give in and cross the distance to the couch.

"You can do whatever you want to me," Atlar told Cade in a sultry tone, but the way he looked at me immediately after told me the invitation was open to me as well.

An image of myself by Atlar's side forced itself into my mind, more obtrusive than the other thoughts. Although I didn't object to the idea, I knew it hadn't originally been mine, and I wondered briefly if Cade had meant to send it to me.

Whether intentional or not, I knew what he wanted; he wanted to see us together. I started forward slowly, excited by the situation, and hoping that cooperating with Cade's unspoken desires would help him feel more comfortable.

Atlar's hand made long, slow strokes as I approached, my heart nearly pounding through my chest. Cade's anticipation was a constant source of encouragement, not that I needed a reason to continue past the view in front of me.

I lowered myself onto the couch beside Atlar, and he pulled his hand away from his cock, his arm going around me, and his lips finding mine a second later. I shuddered as the mate bond ignited again, allowing myself to sink into Atlar's embrace. He kissed me hard, as though he needed it to live and the intensity of it set me aflame.

He kept one arm stretched along the back of the couch, an open invitation for Cade to join us whenever he was ready.

Atlar trailed his lips lower, kissing and licking at the sensitive skin along my neck.

"I've been waiting for this," he told me, his voice a low whisper in my ear. I didn't respond, too focused on my goal as I gripped his shaft. It felt exactly as I had expected from my dreams. He hissed in pleasant surprise, and nipped at my jaw as I began my tentative movements. "That's it, Makara," he encouraged, sensing my insecurity, and I shuddered at the sound of my name on his lips.

I pictured taking Atlar into my mouth, and must have unwittingly sent the image over to Cade as I received an enthusiastic approval from him, despite his hesitation to join us on the couch.

My heartbeat thundered distractingly, sounding a beat too erratic to decipher. I was nervous, my only experience with oral sex coming from my dreams, one incident that I had been a mere witness to and…that thing...with Rodan, if that could be considered experience.

A sudden memory from that night blasted through my lust filled mind, Silas snarling as he pulled Rodan away from me, his fervent demands to know if my brother had entered me with his cock, and the sickening shade of purple that Rodan's oxygen deprived face had turned.

'I nearly killed the last man who touched you,' I heard Silas repeat the words in my mind, and shook the thought away, refusing to finish his statement. I didn't dare think what would happen if he found out about this.

I almost pulled away for fear of it when I felt Cade sit on the opposite side of Atlar. He put a comforting hand on the back of my head, and Atlar let out a soft groan as Cade pulled me forward to kiss him, as if in answer to an unasked question.

"No penetration," Cade said to the room when our lips broke apart, my eyes still closed in enjoyment. "If she's penetrated, he'll know, and he'll be angry."

Atlar nodded, no need to question who Cade was talking about.

They both stared at me, waiting for me to agree before we continued. There was no pressure in their eyes, only blatant, unrelenting desire. I stole a quick kiss from each of them before shifting onto my knees beside Atlar, and bending forward to taste him.

I heard the breathing of both men get heavier as I explored Atlar with my tongue, letting saliva build in my mouth before I slipped my lips over his head.

"That feels so good," he rasped. An exaggeration for my benefit, I knew, but I let his exclamation bolster my movements anyway, drawing my confidence from the low moans of approval above me.

Almost immediately, Atlar's hand began to wander, lifting my shirt to caress the soft skin underneath, cupping and squeezing my ass as it stuck obscenely into the air, and winding through my hair as he helped me gain a rhythm.

My eyes were closed most of the time, concentrating on the feel of Atlar on my tongue, but the sound of another zipper snapped them open. Heat flooded to my core as I watched Atlar undoing Cade's pants, completely unhindered as he worked the clasp with one hand. I could hear them kissing, their wet embrace only stopping when Atlar had successfully freed Cade's cock, already rigid, giving it a slow stroke. Cade groaned, the sound still muffled by Atlar's lips, and a matching sound threatened to escape from me.

"Do you like that?" Atlar asked him in the same low whisper he had used on me. "Do you like watching Makara's mouth around me while I stroke your cock?" The words were meant for Cade, but they sent excitement through my body just the same.

Cade didn't answer, and a low gasp and a loud gulp told me it was simply because he couldn't muster a response, enthralled as he was by Atlar's ministrations, and I nearly rolled my eyes backwards into my skull trying to get a look at the ecstasy on his face. His head fell back on the couch, quickly lifting again when he realized he no longer had a good view. I smiled, as best I could around the warm length in my mouth, and focused again on Atlar's pleasure.

"Makara, I'm gonna cum," he warned me, amidst the gasps and moans that filled the air. New nerves flared in me as I thought about what that meant, but it paled in comparison to the sudden need to fully taste him, to feel the essence of him as I took him down my throat, and I instantly knew that I couldn't pull away. "Makara, you don't have to-" he tried again to give me an out, but was interrupted by his own primal grunting as he stiffened between my lips, coating my tongue with his satisfaction. A strange sort of pride welled up in me, and I swallowed everything I could, swirling my tongue around his head to collect every last drop, then made a show of licking my lips as I lifted from his lap.

Cade pulled me forward once again, kissing me with a gentle intensity that told me he didn't care about the taste he would find on my tongue. I moved my hands forward to regain my balance, one resting between the men, the other on the couch between Cade's knees.

Atlar licked at my neck, grazing the skin softly with his sharp teeth. With a fluid motion, he had my pants around my hips, low enough to provide him the access he was searching for.

"Cade's turn, right, Makara?" He tempted, although he needn't have bothered. I broke the kiss with Cade, turning to peck Atlar, swiping my tongue over his lips before leaning forward, taking in Cade with none of the nervousness I had felt before.

The taste was much the same, but distinctly different, and I lapped up the few drops of him that Atlar had coaxed from his tip. Cade's hand went to the back of my head, not controlling, but simply resting there as I continued the now familiar movement. It was comforting, and somehow felt like a confirmation of his enjoyment, as though his breathy moans hadn't been indication enough.

Atlar's hand rounded the globe of my ass, and he let his fingers delve into the cleft between my cheeks where they met my legs, mere inches from where I wanted him to touch, where I needed to feel him. My core ached and demanded attention, my pulse pounding through me like a war drum. I shifted my hips back, careful not to go so far that I couldn't reach Cade, unwilling to let him fall from my mouth.

Mercifully, Atlar gave me what I wanted, a light chuckle rumbling through him as he slid a finger along my folds, already wet and waiting for him. I groaned around Cade, and a soft curse fell from his lips, like a chain reaction. Every movement or sound I made earned me one from Cade, and Atlar manipulated my pleasure like a puppet master pulling strings, praising us when we gave him the reactions he wanted. He was tucked firmly back into his boxers, but he still had all the control.

Atlar kept me on the edge for a while, getting me close and pulling back so many times I had lost count. Thankfully, as I approached the crest again, he maintained his movements, keeping a steady speed and pressure. I tensed as the wave of my orgasm hit me, and I momentarily lifted from Cade's lap, my mouth hanging open in a silent cry of ecstasy, my shaking muscles threatening to forfeit their support of my weight.

"M-Makara," Cade stuttered a warning, panting as he stiffened, and I clasped my mouth around him just in time to catch the torrent of his release.

Chapter Text

"That's how you follow me," Atlar teased, Cade's cheeks going red as he let the other man kiss him softly.

I smiled, watching them, and pulled my pants back over my ass as I sit backward. How easily a little conversation and sexual tension could dissuade Cade's reservations. As if in denial of the idea, Cade pushed away from Atlar, standing up from the couch, and doing up his pants.

"Showers. Now," he added when neither of us moved. "We all stink like sex."

"I don't mind," I responded, half joking. He turned to stare at me, and I knew that had my clothes been on the ground he would have thrown them at me.

"If Atlar and I smell like each other, nobody will care, but if we smell like you, or if you smell like us, we have a problem.

"I smell like you all the time," I reminded him. "You're my trainer."

"Yes." He walked forward, kissing me assertively on the lips, without allowing me to deepen it. "But I haven't yet made a habit of cumming down your throat."

Yet. He said yet. I forced the excited thought aside, trying to focus on the point of his statement.

I gave him a defeated smile, knowing he was right, I knew the danger as much as he did, if not more so. He hugged me as I stood, and I felt Atlar's comforting hand join Cade's on my back.

"We'll figure it out," he assured me.

I nodded, and let him lead me to the door. I kissed each of them in departure, Atlar allowing me a few minutes headstart before leaving. It wouldn't be helpful to have the three of us found together.

I listened at the door to our suite before going inside, hearing nothing to indicate Silas was home. Once in my room, I stripped off my clothes, shoving them to the bottom of the hamper in hope that the scent of the other dirty laundry would cover any evidence of my escapades. Pulling a clean towel loosely around me, just enough to cover myself, I tiptoed to the bathroom, moving a little faster as I saw Bridger enter the living room, the long hallway to the library behind him.

I slammed the door shut, relieved that I had made it to the shower without any incident.

I turned on the spray, not bothering to wait for the water to heat up as I stepped into the stream, shivering. It didn't take long for the warmth to appear, and I relaxed under the pressure of the water.

Without meaning to, I smiled, genuinely happy in the privacy of the shower that I had found my mate- mates, apparently. How perfect it was, that it was both of them. If I thought I had felt complete when I touched Cade's chest, the first spark of the mate bond shooting through my fingers, it was nothing compared to how it flared when both their hands were on me. I was nearly convinced that I needed nothing more in life than their touch.

My smile faded as I remembered the goal of the shower, to wash off all evidence of their contact. It felt wrong to do so, like I was denying them, but I knew that it had to be done, and why. I hurriedly washed, and turned off the water, the stream now feeling like an insult to my happiness.

My jaw set in a tight clench as I thought of Silas. I felt bad for him. I had felt heartbreak for only a split second when I thought Cade was rejecting me, but I didn't wish it on anyone, and I certainly didn't want to be the cause of it. But Silas took things too far, making offers and threats based solely on what he wanted, regardless of those around him, and it was unacceptable. The problem was, I had no idea what to do about it.

I wrapped the towel around me again, the air raising goosebumps on my skin. Walking towards the sink, I cleared a small patch of mirror, wiping away the steam with my hand, and hesitated for only a moment before grabbing my toothbrush. I could still taste them, their flavours cementing the memories in my mind, and I was reluctant to sever that connection to the experience, suddenly worried that I might forget what it felt like. Sighing, I resigned to my predicament and reached for the toothpaste.

Behind me, the door splintered as Silas burst in, the wood flying from around the dangling latch as he hadn't bothered to use the handle. My heart nearly exploded as I startled at the sudden ferocity, and I let out a quick, shaky breath before I turned to face him, clamping my mouth shut, and trying to slow my rampaging heartbeat.

He stood in the doorway for a brief moment, his obvious rage coiled tightly in his tense muscles.

No. This wasn't happening. He couldn't have found out so soon. He was mad about something else, obviously. But what? What else had happened, what else had I done to make him so angry?

He sniffed the air, releasing a low growl as he picked something up. He stalked towards me, eating up the distance between us with a few long strides. I wanted to step back, and was suddenly very aware of the counter behind me that blocked my retreat.

As soon as he was close enough, his arm shot out, and he wrapped a hand, like steel, around my chin. The action was so sudden, I couldn't have avoided it if I tried. Both my hands came up to his wrist, trying to pry his hand away, trying to escape, but he was too strong. He squeezed as I struggled, pressing my cheeks so painfully against my teeth, that after a few moments I had no choice but to open my mouth.

He leaned forward, sniffing my warm, panting breaths directly.

"Cade is your mate then? Figures," he spoke, his calm words conflicting against his harsh grip.

My eyes widened in concern, which Silas obviously mistook for surprise.

"Cade spent most of his teenage years here, do you think I don't know the scent of his release?" He asked angrily, nearly throwing me to the floor as he let go of my face. I stumbled, but caught myself.

"Sila-"

"Who else did you blow, Makara? I know it wasn't only him."

I wanted to be defiant, to deny him any answers and instead admonish him for his treatment of me. But every instinct in my body cowered in the shadow of the Alpha in front of me. It wasn't fear, necessarily, that I was feeling, but a quick acknowledgement of my wolf told me what it was. Submission. She sat low to the ground, her tail tucked close to her body with her neck displayed and vulnerable.

With Silas' reaction to just the scent of another man I knew he would meet any obstacle to his claim to me with violence.

I struggled to find words, torn between keeping the information to myself and placating the angry Alpha.

He already knew about Cade, and he was the man's son, surely he would be safe. But Atlar meant nothing to Silas. He was nobody. Less than nobody as a Vampire in a Werewolf's territory. He would be killed.

"It doesn't matter. He was just some guy. Cade wanted to watch." It wasn't a lie, not completely.

"Did you fuck them?" He demanded, thankfully dismissing the query of who the other man was.

"What? No," I answered on reflex against my better judgement.

He got quiet, watching me with an intensity so penetrating I wanted to step back, to put distance between me and his burning gaze.

"I don't think I have to tell you this isn't a good time to lie to me, Makara. I need to know. Did you fuck them?" He repeated, stressing each word individually.

"No," I told him again. "I didn't."

The ferocity of his demeanor diminished slightly, but the anger still flashed in his eyes.

"Do you have any idea what you've done? What line you're forcing me to cross?"

"I haven't done anything," I started, my own anger fueling my confidence. "At least not anything surprising. I've been saying I want my mate the whole time."

"Forgive me if I don't take you at your word," he spat at me, "You've also wanted me the whole time."

I shook my head, trying to temper the rage of being dismissed again. Did nobody listen to me?

"But who did I blow, Silas?" I asked him, hoping the unspoken answer would float through his mind, wounding his glass-like pride like a well placed hammer strike.

I realized my mistake a second later when his hand wrapped around my neck. I clawed at his hand, but he pressed towards me until I was forced to step back, following until I hit the wall. The impact made me whince, nearly driving the breath from me. He batted my hands away, much like one might bat at an irritating fly. I thought about returning them to their task, but recognizing the action as futile, I dropped my arms.

"You make things difficult, Makara," he spoke softly, directly into my ear.

He pulled back enough for me to see his free hand come towards my face, forcing three fingers into my mouth. I tried to spit them out, to use my tongue against him, but he was stronger than me, and pulled them out only when he was ready. They were dripping in saliva when he finally did, a line of it stretching from my lips. I licked at it hoping it would break, as if it might also sever the connection to the humiliating memory.

His slick hand disappeared between us, the short towel offering no resistance as he slid his hand between my legs. He wasn't gentle, but he was careful not to cause any pain, as he stroked along my slit, slipping one, then two fingers inside me.

The feeling was so sudden, so invasive, that for a moment I could do nothing but shudder as he passed over my nerve endings.

"It could have been easy, Makara," he told me, his eyes nearly feral. I couldn't look at him, my cheeks going red as I felt my body start to respond to his actions. "It could have been fun for you, but now…" he let the words trail off.

He let go of my neck, and I wanted to push him away, but my legs felt so weak that I was sure if I moved my hands from the wall, I would fall.

"Silas." I had been aiming for a commanding tone, defiant, not the needy whisper that came out. He ignored me anyway, and I heard the distinct sound of a zipper as he lowered it.

His other hand left me as well, making me feel strangely empty. I didn't have to look to know he had freed himself from his pants, the scent of him thick in the air.

"No," I managed, a little more aggressively now that I was without the distraction of his hand between my legs. "Silas, don't."

"Just relax," he instructed, ignoring my protests.

I pushed at his chest, but would have had more success in moving a mountain. He moved his hands to my legs, and I shrieked as he lifted me by the knees, forcing me to bend them and wrap them around his hips. I clung to his shoulders, the sudden movement forcing me to crave the stability of his sturdy muscles.

I tried to tell myself I should fight more, push harder, but I didn't have the energy. My body already warred against me, my core wet and aching and my scent surrounding us. I barely found the strength not to give in to Silas, let alone to actively fight against him.

He held me with one hand, his other going between us, guiding himself to my entrance. With no hesitation, he slid inside me with one long, slow thrust, groaning as he became fully sheathed within me. I whinced as there was a pinch in my lower abdomen, painful, but quickly receding. I pulsed around him, and I quickly found that I liked the feeling of being filled.

No. I couldn't think that. Not like this. Not with Silas.

It didn't matter what I thought anyway, he was inside me whether I wanted it or not, and at that moment, as he slowly began to move, I had a hard time remembering which side of the fence I was on.

He moved against me, holding me so tightly that he ground against my clit with each thrust. His movements quickened and the pleasure built so quickly, I could do nothing to slow it down. Despite my efforts to force it back down, my orgasm erupted, my tensing muscles forcing a moan from my mouth, and I held onto Silas, squeezing him tightly as it felt I could lose myself in the ocean of pleasure.

"It could be like this all the time, Makara. I can make you feel things you've never imagined. I love you. I need you."

He continued his thrusting, faster than before, and each stab of him into me sent a new shockwave through my body.

For a moment, I was relieved. Giving into the temptation, feeling Silas inside me, had been out of my control. It wasn't my fault, and yet I still got to experience my Alpha releasing deep inside me, stiffening as his orgasm tore through him, shortly after mine.

I pushed the relief away, refusing to let the problem disappear behind a loophole in my morals, and focused on my anger. It was difficult to find through my muddled emotions, but as he pulled out of me and gently set me down, it flared, no longer suffocated under the weight of my body's reaction to his touch.

I stayed leaning on the wall, not trusting my legs to support me as they shook. He stepped back, tucking himself, glistening with our combined juices, back into his pants before fastening them. The towel started to slip, but I caught it, folding the corner back under my arm. He watched me silently for a moment, as if unsure what he was supposed to say or do. I was aware of his gaze, but didn't meet it, trying to organize my rage into words.

"I know that was pretty traumatic," he started, and I almost laughed at his attempt at a normal conversation after what he did. "You're probably afraid-"

"I'm not afraid," I interrupted him, my anger bringing the strength back to my limbs. "And I'm not traumatized. I'm pissed."

It was true. He had been aggressive, but he didn't cause any pain past the breaking of my hymen, which had been minimal, he hadn't caused any fear, save for the initial shock of his appearance, and I didn't expect to be haunted by this event with any feeling other than pure rage.

"You're pissed?" He questioned accusingly. "You lied to me about finding your mate, and then Bridger tells me he saw you running for the shower, smelling of another man, and only a day after I told you it would break my heart to lose you."

I ignored the genuine pain in his eyes.

"So your solution is to rape me?"

"You didn't seem to mind."

"Oh really? Which word made it seem like I was okay with that? The 'no', or the 'don't'?"

"It was the scent of you, and the wetness between your legs, and the feel of you around me as you came."

"All things I can't control, and have no bearing on what I consent to. You know that only happens because of the bond."

"Well things happen to me because of the bond too. Maybe that's why I lost control-"

"Bullshit. If it was the bond that made you do it, you would have taken me that night at the estate, but you didn't. You said it was because I only consented to save my life, and when we got here you said you had no need to force me into your bed. What happened to that?" I challenged him.

He went quiet, staring at me intently before speaking again.

"I am your Alpha," he said, completely dismissing my question. "You WILL obey me."

He sounded like Rodan, I noted without amusement.

He turned to leave, stalking out of the bathroom without another word to me.

"Don't let her out of your sight," I heard him say to someone in the living room, presumably Bridger. "And if Cade comes looking for her, kill him."

Chapter Text

His words, uttered with icy casualness, sent chills through my spine as I heard the front door open and close. Cade was his son, he couldn't possibly- I couldn't finish the thought.

Contacting Cade crossed my mind, and I thought of trying to reach him through that undiscussed link, to warn him of the danger, to urge him to stay away, but I knew he would come running instead, and I sealed off the connection as best I could, considering I had no idea how it worked.

I gripped my towel tighter to me when Bridger stepped through the bathroom door, pulling me from my spiral of disbelief of Silas' actions and words.

"Get dressed," he told me sternly, undisguised distaste shaping his features. He threw a soft bundle of clothes at me, and I let them fall to the floor instead of catching them.

"You can't kill Cade."

"I won't," he reassured me, even as his lip came up in a snarl. "But only because he won't come looking for you. He was told to escort the vampire home, he won't be back for hours. Get dressed," he repeated.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Cade was safe, at least for now, Cade and Atlar, both.

"Can I shower first?" I asked him, desperate to wash off the stink of Silas.

"No," the word was a harsh command on his tongue, and he said nothing else as he stepped back into the living room.

Somehow, I had expected that answer, and resigned myself to cleaning up another way, already reaching for the toilet paper.

I spread my legs apart to reach between them, the evidence of Silas slipping from me and sliding down my leg. The scent was strong, and I wanted to hate it, but that damned bond had me inhaling deeply.

I folded the wad in my hand, unwilling to allow his seed more contact with my most intimate area, as I wiped him away from my core too. I was tender, but I knew that would heal quickly enough. The paper came away pink. Blood. Like a stain on the whiteness as a reminder of what he'd taken from me.

When the paper started to rip, sticking to parts of me where his release had already dried, I threw it away, removing what I could with the towel and water from the sink. His scent still surrounded me, but it was faint enough that if I tried really hard, I could almost pretend it didn't.

Although he hadn't included a bra, or panties, the clothes Bridger had brought me were warm, and large, and comfy. I crossed my hands over my chest, torn on whether or not I should walk into the living room. I didn't want to be in there with Bridger, but truthfully, I didn't want to be in the bathroom any longer either.

"Were you there the whole time?" I asked him as I saw him sitting on the couch, recalling the open bathroom door, and how quickly Silas had spoken to the Beta on his way out.

"Yes," he answered, standing.

"So you knew, you heard what he was doing, and you did nothing to stop him?" I accused.

"Yes," he said again, no hint of shame or remorse.

"Then you're no better than him," I spit the words at him like venom.

"I'm no better than him?" He asked, closing the distance between us, his eyes traveling along my body. I was suddenly grateful for how much of me my baggy clothing covered. "You didn't see me taking a turn, did you?"

I was quiet, finding no words to respond to his statement. Claim? Threat? I didn't know what it was, but it made me tense, and I didn't dare relax my shoulders until he looked away.

"We're leaving," he muttered as he turned.

"What? No."

"Don't think I won't carry you out of here."

"You'll have to, because I'm not going anywhere with you."

"Would you rather wait in your room for Silas to come back and do it again?"

My mouth went dry at the thought, and I hugged my arms in closer.

He motioned to the door with a nod of his head, and not liking my other options, I followed him through it.

I made a point not to look at him as we drove, and he made no effort toward conversation, the ride as silent and awkward as one would expect considering the situation. I didn't bother to ask where we were going, I knew he wouldn't answer.

The trees were a blur out the passenger side window, and I hardly noticed them passing. Though my gaze was pointed through the glass I rested my head on, my eyes were unfocused, unseeing. The rumbling of the car became a small source of comfort, the consistency of the sound soothing to my erratic thoughts.

Silas had given me freedom when it wasn't afforded to me, had risked his own life to bring me with him that night he came to kill me, and all because I wasn't happy, because I wanted to leave. I felt safe with him. Not initially, but after arriving at the hotel, and after he refused to send me back to Rodan, I knew my life was safe in his hands, even if my virtue was threatened every minute. My desire to give myself to my mate had allowed me to deny him, despite the neverending pull toward him. I knew I was in danger of giving in at any moment, and I knew his feelings were just as strong, stronger even, as they had apparently grown to the point of threats and violence, his unfulfilled desires poisoning his intentions, but I still never thought -.

I shook the thought away, unwilling to replay the incident again.

I was focusing on keeping a clear head, all thoughts banished for the peace of the quiet darkness of my inner mind, when the car rolled to a stop. Bridger cut the engine, and the sudden silence was enough for me to blink sight back into my eyes.

I leaned forward to get a better view through the windshield, my seatbelt pulling against me as I did. Bridger was already out of the car before I processed what I was looking at. The estate. Rodan's estate. My home. Or at least it was, once upon a time. He started walking to the front door, and I sat in the car, staring at him, confused.

I tore my eyes from his back and up to the building I had grown up in. It seemed bigger, somehow, like I was viewing it through much younger eyes, at a time when I had no cares in the world. I used to be happy here, when my biggest ambition was fitting all my stuffed animals on my bed, when I was still the little girl my father treasured, and Rodan was just my brother who would chase away my bad dreams with animated stories.

Bridger turned towards me, still sitting in the car with the seatbelt on, drawing my attention back down to him. I could have sworn I saw the ghost of a smirk on his face, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared, replaced by an impatient scowl.

He jerked his head, beckoning me from the car. After a brief moment of deliberation, I obeyed, slowly unclicking the seatbelt and opening the door. I stayed beside the car, my eyes flicking between the building and the Beta, not bothering to mask my confusion.

"Why are we here?" I asked him, raising my voice so it would carry across the distance between us.

"Because you need to be," he shouted back.

He ignored my questioning glance, continuing toward the door as I followed a considerable distance behind him, memories of a simpler time and my sheer curiosity setting one foot in front of the other.

I expected him to stop when we reached the door, but my confusion only grew as he continued, leading me through hallway after hallway. I knew where we were going long before we got there, but how he had known the way was beyond me. I spent the journey from the front door to my old bedroom pondering the question, trying to come up with any possible explanation, settling on only one that made sense.

"Do you work for Rodan?" I questioned, having had enough time to coax the surprise out of my voice.

"Something like that," he answered gruffly, swinging open the door and motioning for me to enter. I stepped inside, turning to face him as he still held the door handle.

"Why?"

"None of your business."

I jumped as he closed the door, not caring enough to do it gently.

My wolf roused herself as I looked around, the territory new and different for her. Everything had been cleaned, it smelled fresh, and there was, thankfully, no scent of Silas in the room, save for the one I brought in with me, the one I was trying to ignore. It was nice, like a clean slate.

The door clicked open, and I turned to face who was entering, not entirely surprised to find Rodan closing the door behind him.

My stomach clenched as I remembered the last time I had seen him, staring at me from across the table, his eyes wide with concern as I screamed in pain, but before that, in the bathroom, his eyes had contained something entirely different.

Heat would have flared in me had it not been for the look on his face. A look of such compassion, such understanding, that I allowed myself to feel all the pain, the shame, the betrayal, for what Silas had done. All the emotions that I had drowned in anger came flooding back to me, and Rodan simply stepped forward and wrapped me in a silent hug.

I circled my arms around him in response, burying my head in his chest and letting him chase away the bad as he had done so many times when we were children. It almost seemed normal, if I didn't think about all the years when our father had come between us, or anything that had happened over the last few weeks. Though they burned at my eyes, I refused to shed any tears.

I was content to stay in the embrace, chaste and genuine, until Rodan spoke.

"I told you he would fuck it up."

I peeled myself away from him and rolled my eyes, recalling that he had, in fact, told me so. It was easier not to talk about it, so I avoided the subject, asking an unrelated question.

"Why does Bridger work for you?"

He let me step back before answering.

"My mother was his true mate. Working for me makes him feel closer to her," he paused, shrugging dismissively. "Or something like that."

"For how long?"

"Officially? Since I became Alpha, but we were in…discussions…long before that."

"Why didn't he stop him? If he's working for you, why didn't he stop Silas? Tonight, or when Silas came here to kill me?"

"Your mother killed mine." Rodan shrugged again. "That could be reason enough for him to want you dead. He didn't tell me about either incident until after they happened."

"He wanted me dead," I repeated. "As you did…that night." I didn't have to say which one.

"I didn't want you dead, Makara, I simply realized that it would be convenient if you died."

I opened my mouth to complain, the protest already on my tongue, but he continued, not allowing me a moment to interrupt.

"It's a sentiment I no longer harbor."

His words were soft, contrasting greatly with the hard stare he gave me, his eyes so intense it was difficult to hold his gaze, but I found I couldn't look away. His muscles tensed, as if he had put such meaning into his statement that it was hard to control his body's physical reaction. His mouth tugged into a small, gentle smile, and I knew exactly what he was offering me. An apology. Or at least as close to one as I was likely to get from Rodan.

I nodded noncommittally, not sure if I was ready to forgive Rodan, but entirely sure I couldn't stand his stare for much longer.

His smile widened, and as if my response had been what he was waiting for, he let his shoulders relax, sweeping his eyes from my face, down my body, undettered by my baggy clothes. My face reddened, and I looked away, but I could still see him watching me through my peripherals. It was a long, tense moment before he spoke again.

"So? How was it?"

"How was what?"

"Sex."

I rolled my eyes again.

"I didn't have sex, Rodan, I was raped."

"I know. But, I can smell your release as well as his. You came."

"So?" I asked, more defiantly than I felt. I remembered it with conflicting feelings. I was so angry and hurt that Silas would cross that line, that he would take the one thing he knew I didn't want to give him, but the actual…event…had been pleasurable, careful as he was to avoid pain. I knew it was just my body reacting to stimulation, but with the bond, it was so hard to remember it entirely negatively, even though I knew I should, even though what happened was wrong.

"So you enjoyed it then, the feeling of a man inside you." It was more of a statement than a question, and his words gave me little choice but to remember the sensation he was referring to.

I remembered his fingers first, the way they had stroked me from inside, making the path wet enough for when he quickly, finally, slid his long length into me. I nearly shuddered at the memory, bolts of excitement shooting from my core at the prospect of being filled again.

"Thought so," he smiled, nostrils flared and inhaling deeply. I knew what he was smelling, and my cheeks darkened.

"Tell me, Makara, how did he take you?" He took a step closer to me, reaching a hand out, so close to touching me that my stomach leapt, first in anticipation, and then disappointment as he simply twirled the lose fabric at the hem of my shirt between his fingers.

"Did he lay you on your back?" He shifted his hand, enough so that his fingers grazed my skin above my pants, gently swiping along my side as he began to circle me. "Did you wrap your legs around him as he thrust between your thighs, revelling in the weight of him on top of you?"

My breath got heavy, and my eyes fell closed. I wished I could open them, for the blackness offered me images I did not want to see, as Rodan described them in detail.

"Did he bend you over? Using his grip on your hips to pull you onto him?" Rodan's hands moved to mirror those he described, flipping up my shirt so the tips of his pointer fingers would rest against my skin as he settled on my hips.

I received another image of a man behind me, his strong chest towering above my smooth back. A man. Not Silas, I noticed, as the features blurred and sharpened.

"Did he have you ride him?" His words were a husky whisper in my ear, and when my imagination shifted to match his description, I realized it was Rodan underneath me now, underneath me, and behind me. I squeezed my legs against the growing ache in my core.

"Silas was a fool," he told me, moving one hand to drag a finger gently down the back of my neck. "He underestimated you, tried to control you, tell you what you wanted. He told you you couldn't resist him. But you could, if you wanted."

He loosened his grip, shifting one hand over the top of my ass as he moved to stand in front of me again, never lifting it from my body.

"I made the same mistake. But not anymore." He waited for me to make eye contact with him, his lust-filled face not offering much contrasting to my fantasies. "You're in control, Makara."

I had never been in control before, not with Rodan. The statement made me feel like I could do anything. But with his hands, his voice, his breath on my neck, there was only one thing I wanted, whether it was right or wrong.

I looked to his lips, remembering what they felt like against mine.

"If you want something," he said through his smile. "You'll have to take it."

Fear shot through me. I was afraid of my control, of the consequences my decision would inevitably have. I wanted Rodan, but he wasn't my mate, he was my brother, and he was a dick, for the most part. But he was being so sweet, and he was pushing all the right buttons, and I knew the bond would allow me to enjoy it despite my reservations.

"It's alright," he told me, noticing my hesitation. "Just take the first step. Tell me, show me what you want, and I'll take over."

He had one hand under my shirt, resting on the bare skin of my waist, his other came up to my face, gentle fingers stroking along my jawline, tingles rippling out from the contact.

It felt good, and I knew it could feel better, like it had with Silas. I wanted that again. No, not Silas again, it could never be Silas again, not after he took my choice away. But this, this was my choice. I wanted it, and it was my choice.

Tentatively, and with no small amount of encouragement from my wolf, I leaned forward, stretching to reach Rodan's lips as I kissed him.

"Good girl," he groaned, pulling away just long enough to get the words out before his lips came crashing back down on mine.

Chapter Text

True to his word, he swept me up, easily supporting my weight with a hand on my ass as he guided my legs around him. I clung to him, pulling him closer to me, my arms wrapped tightly around his neck.

The kiss was hard, fueled by passion, abandon, and years of brutal rivalry followed by weeks of tension. He nipped at my lower lip, and when I gasped at the sudden onset of pain, however slight, he slipped his tongue against mine.

He broke us apart long enough to pull my baggy shirt over my head, demonstrating an impressive dexterity with one hand. I detangled my arms from his neck, impatient to have the interfering fabric gone. He dropped a slow, lust heavy gaze down to my chest, heaving with excitement and barely able to contain my pounding heart, licking his lips before resuming our kiss.

I didn't realize we had been moving until he dropped me on the bed, the sudden movement putting my stomach in my throat. He tugged on my pants, holding them as I wiggled out of them, crawling backwards on the bed. He tossed them aside, not letting his eyes leave my body.

His scrutiny was intense, and with the lack of our heated kiss to distract me, it was almost enough to make me cover my nakedness with my arms. Before I could think about it too deeply, he pulled off his own clothes in smooth motions, giving my mind something much more entertaining to do than second guess my decisions.

He was on me again in seconds, his breath warm against my thighs as he moved between my legs, my head falling back against the pillow. He swiped his tongue lightly against me, teasing a whimpering moan from my lips. He kept his contact soft, never enough to bring me any real pleasure, and I knew he was doing it to torture me. I tried to buck my hips impatiently, but his grip on them was too tight, and he kept me pinned firmly to the bed. I raised my head to look at him, hoping he would read the begging plea in my eyes.

The instant we mad eye contact he buried his face against me, making firm sweeps along my core with his tongue, as if rewarding me for an action I hadn't known he wanted. The force from him, the unrelenting pressure, made me shake, and had me feeling helpless under the escalation of my impending release. Focusing on the feeling, I let my eyes fall shut, and then sighed in discontentment as Rodan lightened his touch again. I opened my eyes to question him, and was once again rewarded with the contact that sent me hurtling towards ecstasy.

It was obvious that Rodan wanted me to watch him, so I did, struggling to keep my head up and my eyes open as he feasted on me. The pleasure made it difficult, but I didn't want him to pull away again.

He loosened his grip on my hips to slide one, and then two, fingers inside me, allowing me enough movement to rock my hips, grinding against him. He kept his tongue concentrated on my most sensitive spot, circling me in a neverending spiral.

I felt my muscles tensing, my release coiling in them like a snake preparing to strike. Rodan continued his ministrations diligently, easily following me as my closeness made my movements erratic, my rocking hips losing their rhythm as my orgasm shot through me.

I didn't bother trying to be quiet, letting my moans pour from my mouth without restraint. Rodan lifted his face to smirk at me, pressing his thumb against my sensitive core to watch me twitch with aftershocks.

Either satisfied, or impatient, he withdrew his fingers, climbing on top of me. The vision of him above me, hovering over me, renewed my lust, and I ached to feel him inside me. He kissed me, and I could taste myself on his lips. The flavour wasn't bad, but I whimpered anyway, grabbing at his hips to draw his attention to my need.

He shifted his weight to one arm, the other disappearing between us. A shiver of anticipation ran through me as I felt him at my entrance, and nothing else seemed to matter at that moment. He pushed forward, slowly spreading me apart as he slid inside. I was too wet to offer any resistance, not that I had any intentions of resisting. Fully sheathed, Rodan let out a breathy, pleasure-filled sigh, drawing a matching one from my own lips as he began gently rolling his hips, as if allowing me time to adjust to being filled.

He pulled back, picking up his pace, he thrust forward once again. Each stab of him into me sent waves of pleasure along my body, starting from my core and spreading so thoroughly through me that I felt encompassed by it.

His lips found mine again, muffling the sounds that I wasn't able to hold back. His rhythm quickened, a new surge of pleasure starting before the previous one faded away, blending into a torrent of ecstasy that threatened to undo me. I could see his own desire on his face, his own desperate need for release, but he held back, maintaining his movements until I tensed around him, my second orgasm tearing through me like the tide over a sandcastle.

After a few more thrusts, he withdrew completely, grunting out a quick demand that I turn over. I did so immediately, my mind too distracted to do anything but obey. He pulled my hips up to meet his, driving my head into the mattress and filling me again with the same movement. I yelped, and my ass stung as his hand came down in a smack, the sharp sound of flesh on flesh ringing throughout the room.

He leaned over me, supporting himself with a hand between my shoulder blades, pinning me down. His free hand wound through my hair, and he tugged hard enough that I lifted my head as far back as I could.

He moved with such speed, such intensity, that he could only have one goal in mind, and a moment later, when he pressed himself tight against me, and I felt him shutter, I knew he had reached it. He grunted as he released into me, still gently thrusting his hips to ride out his orgasm.

Panting, and with one last squeeze of my ass, he pulled out, the bed shifting as he stood, already reaching for his clothes as I turned around.

"You're leaving?" I asked him, hating how needy it sounded. He was my brother, so I hadn't expected, or wanted, a love confession or cuddles from him, but I had at least thought he would stick around long enough for his dick to dry.

"Yep, I got what I came for," he stated, doing up his pants.

I glared at him, not entirely surprised, but angry with myself for having expected anything else. So that's why Bridger brought me here. After Silas, it was the perfect opportunity for Rodan to seem sweet, and understanding, to lure me into bed with false declarations of power, to make me feel like I was in control, when I was really doing exactly what he wanted.

He saw the daggers I stared at him, and shrugged.

"Just be happy I let you cum first. Twice," he stated, pulling on his shirt and walking towards the door. "I could have had mine and been done with it. I didn't have to spend time on you, that was a favour."

I scoffed.

"Fine, go. I don't care."

He stopped, taking a long look across my still-naked body, smirking as he spoke.

"Yes, you do." He opened the door, and left.

"That went well," I heard Bridger say before the door was even closed.

"I had her purring like a kitten," Rodan answered him.

"She seemed to enjoy that more than when she was with Silas."

I rolled my eyes, but kept my anger held back until they were done.

"It certainly is convenient, that the Omega is my sister, and I know her so well."

They kept talking, but had traveled too far down the hallway for me to hear.

I felt the rage bubbling forward. It was obvious Rodan didn't care about me, and everything he had done to make me think that he did was just a ploy, the groundwork leading to this moment. It wasn't just about me, it couldn't have been, or Rodan would have raped me a long time ago.

But everything changed when I left with Silas. Rodan got off on being better than him, being able to convince me to give myself to him willingly when Silas hadn't been able to, to have me enjoy being with him more than with the older man.

I felt used, and violated, and I needed to wash them away from me. So I took a shower, the scalding water not hot enough to burn away the memories of both men. I cleaned myself thoroughly, making sure not to leave a single trace of them.

I walked out of the bathroom remembering that, the last time I did, Silas had been waiting for me. In a brief moment of paranoia, I scanned the room, making sure I was alone.

I opted not to wear the baggy clothes Bridger had given me, the scent of Silas, however slight, still present in the fabric. Instead, I rummaged through my drawers for clothes I had left behind, the one minute Silas had given me not nearly enough time to pack my entire wardrobe.

Fully dressed, and happy to be out of the clothes that reminded me of Silas, I crept to the door, opening it slowly to peer into the hallway. I could hear Rodan talking. It was muffled, and it was impossible to distinguish what he was saying, but it was definitely Rodan. His office wasn't far from my bedroom, and I knew that's where him and Bridger likely were, discussing, laughing at how Rodan so easily manipulated me. I had to get out of there.

I closed the door behind me as I tiptoed into the hall, not wanting them to follow me, or even notice that I was leaving. I would have to pass by Rodan's office to get to the front door, and if my footsteps or scent didn't give me away, the loud creaking of the old, wooden, front door as I opened it, or the resounding boom when I closed it, certainly would. No, better not to risk it.

There were many entrances in the estate, but there was one in particular that I had in mind. It was mostly used by staff, specifically those who worked in the yard, the close proximity to the garage convenient for them. I knew I would run into someone, walking through such a high traffic area, but it wouldn't be Rodan, and it wouldn't be Bridger. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary for anyone else to find me here. I was sure Rodan hadn't bothered to tell anyone the truth behind my absence, so no one would know I wasn't meant to be there anymore. No one, save the one man who had seen me leave. No one, save Walter.

As if my thoughts had summoned him, I rounded the corner and nearly ran into the human, his eyes wide as if I were a harbinger of death.

"Miss Makara!" He nearly shouted, his voice a mix of relief and desperation.

"Shhhhh!" I whispered, covering his mouth, stifling the words he spit against my hand. I maneuvered him backwards, opening a closet door and pushing him through it in the same motion, following quickly behind him.

"Miss Makara," he repeated as if we weren't crammed in a small, dark room together. "I can't believe you're here! I thought-, well I thought-"

"You thought Silas was going to kill me?" I finished for him, annoyed at his interruption in my escape.

"Yes! He said he was going to, but then he took you, and I thought he was going to-, well I thought he might have…other...intentions."

I winced. He had no idea.

"That didn't seem to matter when you led him straight to my room," I accused him, not realizing I had been angry about Walter's betrayal.

His heart raced, and for a moment he was silent, his shame nearly tangible in the small room.

"I admit, I made a mistake. It was with poor judgement that I let Silas convince me to help him. I regretted it the moment you left with him through the tunnel."

"That's no consolation, Walter. You were going to let him kill me."

"Please, Miss Makara," he shrieked. "You must forgive me. At the time, I didn't think that-, well, I simply didn't think."

I didn't remember Walter being so whiny, but then again, I couldn't remember much about him, and I realized that perhaps I hadn't known him very well to begin with. Maybe that's why it had been so easy for him to sell me out, to set up his employer who hadn't bothered to learn much more than his name. Still, being overlooked was a far cry from murder, and I still felt like he owed me.

"Show me how sorry you are, Walter," I told him, even though I was convinced he was only apologizing because he had never expected to see me face to face again. "Help me get out of here. I want to go back to the hotel, and I don't want Bridger or Rodan to know."

He went quiet again, and I could hear him chewing on his cheeks, pondering his next move. I thought he was about to decline when he spoke again.

"You'll need a car," he told me, dragging me out of the closet and pulling me along the hallway, whispering harshly. "There's a truck in the yard, at the back, by the fence. It's far enough from the house that I don't think either of them will hear you, and blocked by enough trees that, if you leave the lights off, they won't see you either."

He walked me through the garage, barking a few orders for his subordinates to get back to work as they stopped to stare at us. He opened the door to a small office with a key from a ring on his belt, guiding me in with a wave of his hand, and closing the door quietly behind him.

Swinging open the door on a small, silver cabinet on the wall, he perused the selection of keys inside, selecting one quickly and tossing it to me.

"That will get you in the truck, and this," he stated, pulling a key off his own chain. "Will get you out the back gate."

I nodded, gripping the keys tightly, as if they would jump out of my hand if I didn't.

"One more thing." He held up a finger, and I waited while he opened a safe behind a small desk. "Silas asked me to keep this here for him, in case he ever needed it. I don't know what it's called, but he said it would cover his scent, or something, I'm not really sure how it works. He never used it, so maybe it could help you."

He held out a black flower, so dark I could barely distinguish one petal from another. I took it from him, rubbing the petals between my fingers. It felt like I had seen it before, but there was no scent to identify, and when I released the soft membrane, my fingers were smudged, like they were marred by a dark bruise. No, I would remember if I had ever encountered a flower like this, and the idea that it could cover my scent seemed a little far fetched for me to believe.

I nodded again, shoving the flower in my pocket. I wasn't sure how to use it, and was even less convinced that I needed to. It's not like I was running off to some unknown land. Scent, or no scent, it wouldn't be hard to figure out where I was going as soon as the two men realized I had left. Of course I would go back to the hotel, I had nowhere else.

I needed to get back to Cade, where him and I would call Atlar and the three of us would figure out what to do. Silas wasn't a theoretical problem anymore, and Rodan was more than just the rival Alpha.

I turned, making towards the back door, but Walter's hand on my arm stopped me.

"If you walk through the yard, they'll see you if they happen to look out the window." He pulled me towards a large tool chest, rolling it aside with practiced ease, revealing a narrow set of stairs leading into the cement floor.

"This will take you to the garden. The bench is on a slider, just like this." He motioned to the tool chest. "The truck isn't far from there, and this route will be much safer."

"Thank you," I told him sincerely before stepping into the tunnel, despite my reservations about entering such a confined space on the behest of a man who had once played a role in my attempted murder. It truly did seem like the quickest, and safest, way out of there.

The tool chest slid shut behind me, leaving me in darkness. I ran my hand along the wall for stability and orientation, thankful that the stone floor seemed free of debris and tripping hazards. I tried to move quickly, but running while I couldn't see went against every instinct I had, so I settled for a brisk walk.

With nothing to distract me, I opened my mind to the link I had with Cade, almost forgetting that I had sealed it earlier in the night. We hadn't discussed it, but I attributed it to the mate bond, even though I had never heard of such a thing happening before, but with the secrets my father and Rodan kept, that hardly meant anything.

I searched for Cade, sending my mind out as far as I could manage, but I felt nothing. There was too much distance between us, with me at the estate and him with the Vampires, in the opposite direction. I wished for my phone, cursing that I had left it in my bedroom at the hotel when I took a shower, although it was unlikely Bridger would have let me bring it with me anyway.

It felt like a life time in the shadows before I kicked something hard and stumbled forward, recognizing the shape of the stairs under me almost immediately. I climbed them tentatively, reaching for the ceiling and pushing on it in every direction until it gently rolled aside. It was nighttime, but it felt like a bright, sunny day in comparison to the tunnel.

The silhouette of the truck sat a short distance away, and I stopped only to swing open the back gate on my way to the vehicle. For a moment I was transported back in time, to one of the few lessons my father had actually given me, how to drive. He had taught me many things, but I recently discovered he had lied, or told me partial truths about pretty much everything. I turned the key in the ignition, thankful that this was one thing he had shown me accurately. The memory still came easily to me, and I almost smiled at the thought of Rodan laughing in the back seat as my father grabbed the dashboard, a guilty look on my young face as I eased off the brakes I had slammed.

For a split second, I had the urge to turn around, to go back inside. But the moment was brief, fleeting, and easy to brush aside after the night I'd had. I drove through the gate, wondering how I'd started the day a virgin, and finished it having sexual contact with four different men, and cursing the Alpha-Omega bond.

The drive seemed long, although I had long ago ignored the posted speed limit signs. It wasn't a difficult route to follow, even though I had never driven it before, and I soon found myself in familiar territory, passing by the bar Cade had taken me to all those nights ago.

I knew I was getting closer when I felt Cade's presence touch my mind, more aware of it now that I knew what it was, and was watching for it. Questioning myself, I wondered if I should tell Cade everything that happened. He could be in danger if he returned home and was greeted by Silas. No, Bridger would never have taken me from the hotel if he had reason to believe Silas would be returning right away. More likely, whatever Silas had left to do would occupy him for the rest of the night. Cade was safe, at least for now, and I quickly decided to save the confession for a face to face meeting. I still reached for his mind, the connection comforting, but the closer I got the more I noticed the intense emotions running through Cade, the fear and confusion, but most of all, the rage.

I tried to send him calming images, my own thoughts attempting to break through to his, but he ignored me. Something was wrong.

I pressed my foot harder to the floor, urging the truck to go as fast as it could, despite the loud protests from the engine, the machine built for strength, not speed. Not long after, I pulled up to the hotel, seconds before another vehicle skidded to a stop and parked haphazardly beside me.

Cade emerged from the driver's side, not bothering to close his door, and I ran to him. He eyed the truck, acknowledging me with a quick moment of eye contact before he continued passed me.

"Cade, what's wrong?" I asked him. I knew he wasn't angry with me, none of his fear or rage flaring when he looked at me, but I needed to know what could cause such distress in my mate.

He didn't answer, his jaw set in a tight clench.

I followed him to the stairs, fighting the urge to wince as he slammed the door against the wall behind it. I bit my tongue instead of repeating my question. It was obvious he was either too upset, or in too much of a rush to explain the situation, so I simply continued to follow him into the basement.

We passed the training room doors, moving to an area of the basement I had never seen before. He pulled open a heavy-looking, steel door, pausing long enough to ensure I made it through as well. Axis waited at the end of a long hallway, sitting in a chair beside a door much like the one we had just gone through, but with more locks. He stood as we approached him.

"Open it," Cade growled, leaving what I thought was no room for negotiation.

"You know I can't do that."

"You can, and you will," Cade snarled.

"This is my call, Cade. I'm the enforc-".

"And I am the Alpha's son," Cade interrupted, and I cringed at the reminder of Silas. "Which means I outrank you. And if that isn't enough, I am also the next Alpha, which means I outrank you, twice. Now open the door before I open your head."

Cade had always been blunt, but for him to blatantly threaten Axis was out of character, and another glimpse into the gravity of the situation.

Axis was quiet for a moment, but after a another growl ripped from Cade's throat, the enforcer unlocked the door. Cade didn't bother to thank him as we stepped inside, and neither did I.

There was a line of cells inside the room, like a small prison I hadn't known existed. Cade stalked down the row, moving quickly to the last cell, where locked behind the bars, sat Bash.

Chapter Text

"Cade!" Bash cried as we approached the bars of his cell, standing to wrap his hands around the cold iron. "Cade! They're not even looking-, they-, Axis won't send anyone," he choked out, stumbling over his words. "They think it was me!"

"I know," Cade replied, his voice soothing. "We'll fix it, don't worry."

"How can I not worry?" Bash nearly shouted, desperation and frustration inflating his words. "For everyone else they sent a team, but this time they won't, not until-, they want me to confess!"

I swallowed hard, starting to piece together why Bash was locked away, what had happened to lead him here. I hoped I was wrong.

"But I didn't do it! And if I confess, they'll never-" he stopped, the rest of the sentence too difficult to voice.

"What happened, Bash?" I asked.

"Tal is gone," he said flatly, sad eyes looking to mine, and my stomach dropped as my suspicions were confirmed. "She's missing. I haven't seen her since yesterday, but I thought she was at her parents', she left in the morning to visit them. They think since I was the last one to see her, that I know where she is. But I don't!" He finished, the fear creeping back into his voice.

"Doesn't Henry usually drive her? Wouldn't he be the last one to have seen her?"

"They can't find Henry either," Cade explained, although how he knew was a mystery to me. "And since they already suspected him with Dodge…" he trailed off.

Dodge? Hadn't the man's name been Dodrick? Was it a nickname? Although Dodge sounded familiar enough that perhaps I had been mistaken.

"But it still doesn't make sense," Bash defended himself. "He always had the night shift, and I've handed off rounds to him hundreds of times, it's not unusual that I saw him at shift change, it shouldn't make me suspicious. At least not enough to refuse to even look for Tal."

"Can't you break him out of here? Or force Axis to let him out, like you forced him to let us in?" I asked Cade.

He shook his head.

"I could, but it will make us both look bad if I do, and if Axis can convince enough people that I'm involved, he could throw me in jail right beside Bash. I can help more from out here. But we're going to get you out of there, Bash, you can be sure of that."

"I don't care about getting out. Just find Talismay, she's the only thing that matters."

Cade nodded, and I heard him respond to Bash's plea, although I didn't retain what he said, too distracted by a memory to focus on Cade. The name Talismay rang in my ears. I had never heard her full name before, but it felt like I knew it, like I had seen it somewhere, and with the memory of it came a need to be…not here. Upstairs, maybe? Somewhere specific, but I didn't know where.

I gave Bash a tight lipped smile before we turned and walked away, knowing that, although I was trying to be supportive, nothing could help him except finding Tal. It was hard not to be pessimistic about our chances, afterall, we hadn't found anyone else yet.

I took one last look at my friend as we exited through the steel door, he slumped to the ground, a look of pure despair on his face before he buried it in his hands.

Cade's growl brought my attention to the men in front of me. Axis was standing again, looking obstinate as Cade barked out an order.

"I want a team out there, now."

"It's a waste of time. We haven't found anyone. He could just tell us where she-"

"He doesn't know!"

I watched the encounter with a sinking pit in my stomach, still feeling a pull to go upstairs.

"So he says."

A frustrated rumble tore through Cade, and I could swear that, if he had fangs, they would have been bared.

"And what if you're wrong about him? What if you're wrong, and something happens to my friend, the Alpha's niece. How do you think Silas will react knowing you did nothing to help her?"

I stifled a cringe as Silas was mentioned again, the thought of him lodging in my brain like a tick. I ignored it, searching for something that might convince Axis to do what Cade said.

"The second Cade becomes Alpha," I started, following the same line of thought as Cade. "Bash is Beta, and he'll be out of that cage whether you agree with it or not. Do you think he'll forget that you refused to look for his mate?"

Axis blanched, his eyes flashed to me, but he quickly pulled them back to Cade, assessing who was more of a threat.

"I won't leave him unguarded," he stated timidly.

"Then don't," Cade answered, annoyed. "But send a team out to look for Tal. At least try to be diligent."

After a long, tense pause, Axis nodded, the action so subtle it was barely noticeable. He pulled out his phone, but Cade didn't bother waiting for him to make the call before we stalked away, walking briskly down the hallway. As soon as we crossed the second steel door, Cade brought out his own phone, grumbling at the lack of notifications.

"What's wrong?"

He sighed.

"Tracey called me as soon as I dropped off Atlar," he told me, pushing a couple of buttons and bringing the phone to his ear, continuing to talk as the line rang. "I tried calling my dad a dozen times on the way back, but I can't get through."

As if on cue, the message for Silas' voicemail echoed through the room. Cade hung up and dialed again.

"Don't," I said, stopping Cade from lifting the phone back to his ear. "Don't call Silas."

Silas was the last person I wanted to hear from.

"He's the Alpha, and Tal is his niece through the mate bond. He should be here."

"I know, it's just, I don't think that-", I stuttered, not knowing exactly how to put my feeling into words. "I think Silas might be involved in the disappearances."

The words surprised me, I hadn't realized that's what I had been about to say. Did I actually think that? Yes. Yes, it felt right to say that I suspected him, but I didn't know why.

Cade ended the call as the automated voice picked up again, eyeing me, waiting for me to elaborate.

I stayed quiet, not having an explanation that made any kind of sense. Sure, after what happened, I knew Silas wasn't a good man, but was he evil? Should I base my suspicions on that alone? No, it didn't feel like I was. There was something else, something more.

Not having the words to tell him, I pushed the feeling I had directly into his mind, careful to block out what Silas had done to me. Now wasn't the time for that conversation. Tal was in immediate danger, and I wasn't.

Cade blinked in surprise, and his face contorted in a confused scowl, clearly understanding the feeling about as much as I did. It was like a memory I couldn't quite grasp. He eventually nodded.

The ride up the elevator and the walk down the hallway were quiet, neither of us knowing what to say. I could tell Cade wanted to ask questions, why I suspected Silas, what we were doing, but he knew I didn't have the answers.

The second we were in the suite, I walked to Silas' bedroom, knowing he'd be out for the rest of the night. Crossing the threshold, I was hit by an eerie sense of deja vu, although I knew I had only been in this room once before. Cade followed me, his face frozen with uncertainty.

I looked to the nightstand, half expecting to find something there, and scowling when the surface was empty. I pulled open the drawer in the small table, rummaging around the items before slamming it shut.

"What are you looking for?" Cade asked as I approached the dresser, performing the same inspection on the drawers of the tall piece of furniture.

"I'm not sure. Something suspicious, I guess."

Cade joined in the search, digging through various drawers and shelves. Eventually I wandered to the closet, vaguely remembering that Silas had once referred to the small room in the same sentence as his secrets.

The instant I set eyes on it, I remembered exactly why I had been drawn here. It didn't take long to find it, the familiar text laying plainly on a small bench. Either Silas was very stupid, or very confident that no one would contradict him.

I grabbed the book, racing out of the closet and through Silas' private bathroom to find Cade digging through a box from under Silas' bed. I opened the book, relieved to see the loose pieces of paper shoved inside the front cover were still there, I hadn't thought to check before coming to show Cade.

"Look!" I told him, thrusting a piece of paper towards him. "This is what I was looking for."

"This is a list of the missing wolves," he answered, inspecting the paper.

"Yes, but look at the last two names."

"Dodge, and Talismay."

"Silas called him Dodrick, and I had never heard Tal's full name before, but when Bash said the names downstairs, they seemed familiar."

"So what? They were the last two to go missing, it makes sense they're on the list."

I rolled my eyes.

"But I saw this list BEFORE they were missing."

His eyes widened in realization.

"You're sure?"

"Yes. That day you gave me postium, I saw this book and came in to look at it. I saw the list, but didn't understand it, so I put it back."

"Does Silas know you saw this?"

I shrugged.

"I don't know. He saw me reading the book. He either didn't think I noticed the list, or he didn't care."

Cade was quiet, an intense frown on his face as he, no doubt, pondered what steps to take. If he was surprised that Silas was involved, he didn't show it.

"Is this enough to get Bash out of jail?"

He shook his head.

"It's not unusual for Silas to have a list of the missing."

"Even one that was completed beforehand?"

"There's no way to prove when it was completed. It'll be your word against his, and that won't get us anywhere, especially if Axis is involved in this."

"He isn't," Cade stepped in front of me as Bridger entered the room, a low warning growl rumbling through him. I knew it wouldn't take long for Bridger to find me, but I had been so distracted by the situation, I had all but forgotten about him.

"But you are," Cade accused the Beta.

He shrugged.

"What is Silas planning?" I shouted, stepping beside Cade, not willing to show any fear. I wanted to reveal his plotting with Rodan, but this discovery of Silas' involvement with the disappearing wolves took precedence.

Cade looked at me in a way that told me to get behind his protective bulk, but I ignored him, focusing my attention on Bridger.

"Come with me and I'll tell you everything you want to know."

Cade growled again.

"Why should I go with you?" I asked incredulously. "It's clearly dangerous."

"You want to know what's going on, don't you? And you want to stop it?"

"And if I go with you, you'll tell me?"

"I said I would," he said, as if that were some kind of guarantee.

"You'll help us stop him?

Bridger nodded.

"Why?" I asked him, genuinely surprised that he would give in so easily, and wary of his cooperation.

"We have similar goals."

"But, you hate me."

Bridger shrugged, sighing as he began to explain.

"The only thing I've ever wanted was my mate. Silas had his, and threw it away for his stupid plan, for power. So, yes, I hate you. I hate you and that face you got from your mother, but I hate Silas more."

"Why? What do you mean he threw it away?" Cade asked him, a sad desperation slipping through his tone.

Bridger flashed a look to Cade, but turned back to me, motioning for me to follow him with a slight jerk of his head.

"No," I refused him. "Tell me here. Explain everything right now, and maybe, if I'm satisfied, I'll go with you."

Bridger sighed. Cade took it as a victory and repeated his question.

"What do you mean he threw it away?"

"Body, mind, and soul."

"And blood used to bind," I finished automatically, voicing the words as they appeared in my mind.

Bridger nodded. I turned, snatching up the book and shaking it, pages down. A single piece of paper floated down, and I grabbed it, tossing the book aside. A quick glance told me it was what I was looking for, and I thrust it toward Cade for him to read before turning back to Bridger.

"What does it mean?"

"Body, mind, and soul," he repeated, and I rolled my eyes impatiently. "Sister, friend, and mate. It's the start of the ritual."

There was a moment of silence as his words sank in, a pained look crossing Cade's face before he spoke.

"Are you saying it was Silas who killed my mother? Who killed Bash's parents?"

Bridger nodded again.

"The ritual requires sacrifice, a lot of it."

"But Cade was injured during that attack. Your saying Silas butchered his own son too?"

"For affect. It had to look real."

The pain in Cade's expression turned to anger, and he clenched his jaw.

My thoughts raced. It made so much more sense. The humans Silas had killed in apparent retaliation were likely completely innocent. That's why the wolves had had no further issues with hunters, because they hadn't existed in the first place. That's why Silas said it was impossible to treat with the humans. Atlar and I had proven it could be done, but if the wolves had tried at the time, Silas' plot would have been revealed.

"What about the rest of the poem?"

"Patiently, it sits and waits. Seventeen years to be exact, one for every hundred since the Moon Goddess punished us."

"So he means to undo her punishment? To allow the wolves their shifted form?"

"Nope. Just him. Just his wolf."

I glanced down at the poem, trying to piece everything together. An image flashed through my mind, the fountain I saw when I was shifting. I watched as it spilled blood over my hand, the thickness still turning my stomach, and knew immediately what was happening.

"He's killing the kidnapped wolves, filling a fountain with their blood."

"Yes. Now it's full, and he's ready to complete the ritual."

"Being able to shift is not worth all those lives, " I shouted.

"It is to him."

"Why wait?" Cade asked. "The anniversary of the attack was months ago. Silas could have taken the rest of the wolves on his list any time since then. Why now?"

"Because of her," Bridger thrust his chin towards me.

"Me? Why me?"

"First or last, Omega dear," he rolled his eyes, like the answer should have been obvious.

My wolf reminded me of the blood I had wiped away when Silas was done with me. First or last blood. My innocence or my life.

"I'm part of the ritual?"

Bridger nodded.

It still didn't make sense. He could have taken me, or killed me whenever he wanted. Why wait?

"He loves you," Bridger started, as if he were reading my thoughts. "For reasons I'll never understand, he doesn't want you dead, he wants you by his side. He said it was preferable that you agree, but not entirely necessary should you prove to be difficult. He wanted you to be happy, just not as much as he wants to be happy."

"He said I forced his hand, didn't give him a choice,"

"Forced him to what, Makara?" Cade asked with suspicion.

"He thought he could take me willingly if he had enough time. But I got too close to my mate, and when he found out, it scared him. If he doesn't want me dead, he only had one option."

"When did he find out?" Cade demanded, his anger barely contained. He turned me to face him, and his words not only rang through my ears, but exploded in my mind, as if he were speaking directly through my subconscious. It surprised me. We had shared images before, emotions, much the way my wolf and I communicated, but for his words to sound so clearly in my mind was foreign, though not unwelcome. "What did he do?"

I saw the pain in his face, the effort to deny what he already knew. I didn't want to tell him like this. I wanted to dissuade him, to comfort him and let him know that I was safe, but I couldn't lie.

"He raped me."

Chapter Text

As soon as I said the words, I saw his tether snap, the only thing stopping him from unloosing his rage. With a fierce growl, Cade launched himself at Bridger, tackling him to the ground. They fought on the floor, Bridger moving defensively to block his face as Cade punched him.

I knew Bridger wasn't Cade's real target, but he was the only one within striking distance, and it's not like the Beta was completely innocent. He clearly knew about the plan, and had either allowed Silas to enact it, or helped him. He had even tried to convince Silas to rape me sooner, I realized as I thought back to an overheard conversation. It was obvious now, he had told Silas that waiting to take me was an unnecessary risk.

I let Cade land a few more blows before I grabbed his arm, not hating the bruises that were quickly forming on the Beta's face.

"Cade, stop," I told him, finding it difficult to say the words with any conviction. "I heard Bridger and Rodan talking, there's more to this, something he hasn't told us."

I knew it was true, and I didn't need Bridger's triumphant smirk as Cade begrudgingly freed him to tell me. Bridger had been conniving, and traitorous, and self-serving, but he wasn't stupid. He wouldn't have risked bringing me back to the estate just for Rodan's whims, son of his true mate, or not. If I had any doubt of that fact, Rodan's assertion of the convenience of my Omega title swept them away. I was THE Omega. Not that I was the only one, but I was the one Silas had chosen. That somehow mattered to Rodan.

"Rodan? Whe-" Cade started to ask, setting his curiosity aside for a more pressing concern. "What did you hear?"

"She did a lot more than hear," Bridger taunted him, still laying on the ground.

I flushed, but ignored him, thankful that Cade hadn't reacted to Bridger's egging on.

I didn't know how to answer him. Of course, I had to tell him, I wanted to tell him, but what would I say? How did I explain that I had allowed my brother to seduce me by dangling the prospect of control in my face?

Cade tensed as I opened the link once again, letting everything that had happened flow through it. He needed the full picture, to understand that I had been in a situation I thought I was in control of, only to find out Rodan had orchestrated the whole thing, manipulating me into doing what he wanted. With hindsight, I should have known, and I admonished myself once again for letting him in, worried that Cade would be angry with me for being so oblivious.

"He took advantage of you. Again." Cade clenched his teeth, and his hands closed into fists at his side. "Can I kill him now?"

I breathed a sigh of relief that Cade's anger had been directed towards Rodan, and not me, although I felt I deserved it.

"No," Bridger spoke from the ground, slowly pulling himself into a standing position. He wiped at his mouth, spitting blood onto the floor, uncaring about the stain that it left on the carpet, or the smear on his arm.

Cade growled, a blatant threat.

"Down, boy," Bridger told him condescendingly, rolling his eyes.

I reached out to touch Cade's arm, feeling him relax slightly as the mate bond flared at our contact.

"Explain," I demanded. "What does Rodan have to do with this?"

"Rodan must be kept alive. Silas too. At least until after the ritual."

"Why?"

"Do you think Silas came up with the ritual all on his own? Do you really think he has that kind of power? No. There's a witch who started the whole thing, convinced Silas to agree to it. If you kill Silas before he completes the ritual, she'll just use his corpse to finish it. No one wants her to have control of a hybrid wolf puppet."

"And this witch has enough power to do that?" Cade asked, still tense, but wisely putting aside his personal feelings.

"She used to, but not anymore. She doesn't need it now. The power is in the ritual itself, in the fountain filled with the blood of magical creatures. The only way to stop it now, is to let it happen."

"How exactly will that help us?"

"Rodan polluted the ritual," Bridger stated, giving us both a pointed look, the implication that he had done so by sleeping with me hanging thickly in the air. I flushed, but didn't say anything, waiting for Bridger to continue. "Now, when Silas completes the ritual, instead of transforming, he'll die. That's why we need you, Makara. You need to be there so Silas can finish. Then this whole thing will be over."

"Why didn't you just tell me?"

"Would you have believed me? If I told you last week that Silas was murdering his own pack, would you have listened?"

I looked away from him. I may not have believed him last week, but I may have believed him yesterday, the threat to my mate still fresh in my mind.

"And you think, after everything, that Makara will just go with you? Are you crazy?"

"I'm not sure we have a choice, Cade." He turned to face me, still watching Bridger through his peripherals. "This poem says he'll get untold strengths and gains when he completes the ritual. If he's willing to kill that many people for it, what's he going to do with that strength once he gets it?"

"We can leave," Cade replied. "Get far away from here so he can never finish. You're the Omega, he needs you."

I shook my head.

"I'm AN Omega. Omegas might be rare, but there are more, others. Rodan has already-, well, as an Omega I'm already…altered." I chose the word carefully, not liking the way polluted sounded. "If Silas gets another Omega, he'll get what he wants. At least this way, there's a chance that we'll win."

"Exactly," Bridger added. "And he won't hesitate to kill the next one. He needs to die. You nearly wrecked everything by running away."

I rolled my eyes. It's not like they had given me much of a choice.

"I'll be okay, Cade. Silas doesn't want me dead."

"But he does." Cade thrust a thumb at Bridger.

"Not yet," the Beta mumbled.

"I can handle Bridger," I told Cade, confident, if not entirely convinced of the truth of that statement. Stepping closer, I kissed him lightly, and he put his forehead against mine.

'I don't trust him,' Cade's voice filled my head. How quickly this form of communicating had become natural to us, never even discussing the shared emotions, images, and words between us. It was like night and day when compared to my wolf. We struggled to communicate, and there were times, like now, when she was decidedly quiet, that I almost forgot she was even there.

'Neither do I,' I responded, using the same silent words as he had.

•°~~****~~°•

Bridger walked slightly behind me, and we were silent as we moved, the sounds of the insects and animals in the nearby trees the only things to be heard, besides the occasional direction Bridger barked at me.

I could feel Cade back at the hotel, clinging to our link as it grew weaker and weaker, the distance making it difficult to grasp. Eventually it fell away completely, and my heart sank. I had hoped he would follow us.

"Through there," Bridger told me, pointing at the gaping entrance of a cave in the rocks. I stared at the dark passage. It loomed over me, sharp spikes of minerals jutting from the ceiling like teeth in a mouth about to swallow me.

I looked at him defiantly, and he rolled his eyes, stepping past me to walk into the blackness. Following him cautiously, I shuffled along the stone ground, my hands on the rough wall for guidance. Some areas of the tunnel were brighter than others, cracks in the ceiling allowing just enough moonlight in to see by.

Shadows danced along the walls as we approached one such crack, the night sky just barely visible right above us. Bridger paused, turning around to look at me. He didn't say anything, so I assumed he was checking that I was still there. There were three directions we could have gone in that particular intersection, and I had no idea how Bridger had known that we needed to go left, but he did so without hesitation.

From there, there were multiple splits in the rock, each offering us a new path. Some, we walked by, Bridger not sparing them a second glance, others, we followed. There was no pattern, no logic to the course we took, but the tunnel eventually opened into a wide cavern.

The space was lit with sconces along the walls, the flickering flames lending themselves to the eerie atmosphere of the room.

The first thing I noticed was the large fountain in the middle of the room, the thick, red blood that cycled through it making my stomach turn. The second thing, was Silas, leaning against a table with his back to us. He spoke, quietly enough that I couldn't hear what he said, even in the echoing chamber.

Bridger coughed, drawing the Alpha's attention and Silas turned, focusing on me intensely, his expression giving nothing of his thoughts away.

He pushed away from the table, stepping around it to walk towards me. My eyes snapped to the woman just a little farther ahead, visible now that Silas had moved.

I recognized her, her sunken face, the limbs so thin they looked like they were about to snap, and the knotted hair, matted to her head before falling in thick strands past her shoulders. I had seen her before, in my dreams.

Silas watched me with gleaming eyes, scanning me from top to bottom. There was a thickness around us, a tension that had never been there before. He reached a hand out to touch me, but pulled it back as if I had slapped him. Shifting from one foot to the other, he fidgeted in his place, unsure of what to do with himself. I was not inclined to help him, and I let him stand there uncomfortably.

He opened his mouth as if to speak, then pressed his lips tightly together, directing his attention over my shoulder.

"Well, she's not in chains," Silas started, speaking to Bridger as if I weren't standing right in front of him. "And she's not running, so I guess you found a way to get her here willingly."

"He told me everything," I stated calmly before Bridger had a chance to respond, not willing to let Silas treat me like an object again, talking about me, instead of to me.

As if my knowledge of his actions and subsequent presence in the cave were enough for him to believe I was on his side, he let the awkwardness fall away, smiling wide, and lifting his hand to the side of my face, stroking my cheek with his thumb. I knew things would go smoother if he trusted me, so I leaned into his hand, pushing away intrusive memories of the last time his hand was on my face. Shifting his hand to the back of my head, he stepped closer, and pulled me towards him in the same motion, kissing me with the full dominating power of an Alpha.

I let him kiss me, opening my mouth to his tongue as he ran it across my lips, despite the urge to push him away. A small part of me, the bond, was thankful for the contact, craved it, and pushed me to lift my hands to his chest. I allowed the small action, knowing it would increase the trust between us, even as I buried the rest of the urges under my hatred for the man in my arms.

I nearly stumbled as he pulled away, and I swallowed my disappointment as he stepped back, focusing on my anger.

"The power we'll have, Makara," he stated. "It'll be like no one's ever had before. I will rule as the most powerful Alpha, and you," he ran his hands down my arms, grasping my hands in his. "You will be my Luna."

I managed to smile at him, a thin, tight lipped expression that didn't reach my eyes. He frowned, not satisfied with the hesitant action.

"You understand, don't you?" He asked. "Why I-, why it had to happen? I need you to understand." He raised both his hands to my face, shaking me slightly and forcing me to look directly at him. I just barely stopped myself from gasping in fear, and trying to pull his hands away. "Tell me you understand." He stopped shaking me, staring at me, waiting intently for my answer as if I were deciding whether he would live or die.

I understood, of course, why he had done it. I understood that he was a selfish, power-hungry man who wanted nothing more than to be in charge, and I understood that he would sacrifice anything and anyone in order to get it. I understood that no truly powerful man would ever put the world through so much misery, and I understood that under his self-important personality, and despite his large muscles, Silas was weak. But I couldn't tell him that.

"I understand," I told him, keeping the rest of my thoughts to myself, though it was difficult to avoid sounding accusatory. He either didn't notice the tone, or he ignored it, choosing to hear only what he wanted as he smiled broadly at me again, squeezing me in a tight hug before finally letting me go.

"Are you ready?" Bridger asked from behind me.

I turned to look at the Beta and he gave me a slight nod, almost imperceptible. A pang of regret and suspicion rang through me, and I was suddenly nervous that I had made a mistake in trusting Rodan and Bridger. But it was too late now, and I had no choice but to follow Bridger as he walked past me.

As we moved, I noticed the old lady was no longer in the room, no doubt having disappeared at some point while I was talking to Silas. I looked to the half dozen gaping cracks in the cavern wall near where she had been standing, but there was no indication which passageway she had taken.

One fact about her was clear, she was someone important, likely the witch who Bridger said created the ritual. But how had she gotten the power in the first place? Although, it didn't really matter anyway. Bridger said her power was gone, so once Silas was dead, she likely wouldn't be able to cause any more harm.

Bridger led me to a tall platform on the other side of the room, the surface raised to look like an altar, four pillars set with decorative rings stretching a few feet from the surface, and I macabrely made a comparison between myself and a sacrificial lamb before Bridger spoke.

"Take off your clothes."

"What? No," I answered defiantly.

"It's part of the ritual. It won't work if you don't follow it."

"So this all powerful ritual that will reverse a punishment put in place by the Moon Goddess herself won't be able to find its way past a few pieces of fabric?"

"No." He sighed at my obstinacy. "The punishment is from a time when we were a lot more primal than we are now. Nudity in any context wasn't an issue back then, and therefore, clothes were not factored into the ritual. Take them off."

Looking behind me, I saw Silas was already removing his clothes, his shirt tossed haphazardly to the ground and his pants pooling at his feet before he stepped out of them.

I nudged my wolf, hoping she would have some idea of how to get out of this, but she ignored me.

I didn't relish the idea of being naked in front of either of the men, the time I had already spent in such a state having been more than enough, but I didn't have much choice, so I reluctantly peeled off my clothes. Bridger turned away from me as I worked, displaying a gentleman's modesty that he hadn't bothered to show me in the past.

Squeezing my legs to hide my folds between them, I crossed my arms over my chest, covering as much of my nakedness as I could. I coughed to get Bridger's attention, not sure what I was meant to do next.

He guided me by the elbow to a set of stairs that led to the top of the platform, where I could now see a long cushion set between the front-most pillars.

"Kneel," Bridger directed me, pointing at the cushion.

I looked between him and the cushion, and he silently repeated his order with a thrust of his chin. I obeyed, walking forward and cautiously kneeling down on the cushion. It was soft under me, protecting me from the hard ground. There were certainly worse things to kneel on, I was sure.

I heard Bridger doing something behind me, so I turned to face him. He was closing a door to a compartment in one of the pillars, a length of rope in his hand.

"Rope?" I asked accusingly.

"The Omega was never expected to be willing," he explained, knowing I would object to being tied up. "It's a formality, but it must be observed."

"And if I refuse?"

"You want him dead as much as I do," he whispered, so low I could barely hear him. "Are you not willing to do what it takes to make that happen?"

"How do I know you won't kill me right after?"

"I swear on my dead mate, I won't kill you. At least not while you're tied up."

I searched his face for any kind of deception. Finding none, I reluctantly handed him my wrist.

He tied each limb to one of the pillars, threading the rope through the decorative rings. He pulled so tightly I was forced to stretch out my arms, and spread my legs, leaving myself embarrassingly exposed.

My breath quickened as I realized how vulnerable I was, and I gave an investigative tug on the ropes that bound me. The knots tightened painfully.

"Just relax." I cringed as Bridger spoke, remembering how Silas had told me the same thing as he raped me. I wondered if Bridger had remembered as well, if he had done it on purpose. "It'll be over soon."

Bridger moved from in front of me, walking down the steps to stand at the base of the platform. I could see Silas standing at the edge of the fountain, his flaccid cock gaining some rigidity as he saw me displayed, although it did not expand fully.

Bridger gave the Alpha a nod, and that desperate excitement Silas had shown earlier changed to something more serious. Fear? Determination? I couldn't quite tell.

He turned from me, stepping into the blood of the fountain. I fought off a gag as the viscous liquid stirred around him, sloshing up to stain the flesh of his legs bright red before slowly dripping back into the pool. It barely came halfway to his knees, and when he sat, legs stretched out in front of him, his entire torso remained visible. It wasn't until he laid back, submerging his head under the blood, that he disappeared completely, the redness swallowing him whole.

At first, nothing happened, but just when I was about to question Bridger, the blood began to bubble. After a moment, the entire surface was roiling and churning, as if someone had set the fountain to boil.

I tensed, knowing that if everything went to plan, Silas was about to die. I noted the contrast between my nervousness and Bridger's own calm mannerisms as he took out his phone, typing out a quick message before putting it back in his pocket.

A few moments later, the blood still heaving and swirling in the fountain, Rodan walked through one of the crevices, giving me an appreciative glance before standing beside Bridger.

I was shocked by his appearance, but knew I shouldn't have been, admonishing myself for the oversight.

The two men spoke quietly, low enough that I only picked up a few words.

"…warriors…position…order…"

I ignored them, too distracted by the killing in progress to pay them any heed.

I breathed a sigh of relief as the fountain began to calm down, eventually settling into a placid pool, no signs of life stirring the surface. A part of me was sad, and I knew it was not the part of me that had been raped, not the part whose mates were threatened and friends were killed. Silas had protected me, even if not from himself, and in his own way, loved me, but he had caused too much pain for too many people for me to allow those sympathies to take root within me.

I let my head fall back, happy that, for once, trusting Rodan hadn't been a downfall.

'What's happening?' Cade's voice filled my mind, and I opened my eyes, smiling, glad that he had, indeed, followed me.

'It worked,' I told him silently, allowing my relief to flow through our link. 'He's gone.'

And as if on cue, as if the whole thing had been orchestrated simply to prove that I was a fool, Silas burst through the surface of the pool, sputtering, and coughing up blood, but alive.