Fangs of Anarchy, Book 2
Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Dakota Cassidy.
All rights reserved.
In the beginning…
In the year 2004, paranormals were forced from hiding after an unfortunate public mishap involving a vampire by the name of Martin Lawler, who accidentally outed the existence of various supernatural races to the human population.
In a word, Martin screwed every paranormal working and living peacefully among the humans without their knowledge.
Mass hysteria ensued amongst human citizens, who raised questions about the safety of paranormals in living, social, and working environments. There were protests to rival the Vietnam marches. Humans demonstrating against the paranormal weighed down with garlic wrapped around their bodies and holy water in flasks, carrying signs that read “Down With Team Twilight!” and “Who Let The Dogs Out?”
The human governments decided it was unconstitutional, and likely unwise, to attempt to round up the paranormal and kill them all. (Which had been the original plan, until the otherworldly revolted with the threat of a blood-sucking, entrails-eating uprising the likes of which humans had never seen.)
Still, the widespread panic forced the governments, sires and councils of both paranormal and human persuasions to convene a summit in order to contain fear and create newer, stricter laws for all concerned.
Some laws suckier than others…
As a result, humans and paranormal alike were relocated to newly created territories and banned from each other in a global form of segregation. Many of the paranormal were threatened with mass extermination unless they uprooted and left their old lives behind, agreeing to resettle in new homes with small monthly supplemental funds from the government as consolation for the upheaval.
As part of the new wave of laws, and in an effort to keep clans, packs, covens, and the like strong and pure, governing councils issued a warning to all races. While they must share living space, and in some cases, govern their newly appointed towns together without outside influence, no paranormal could engage in any form of cohabitation with another paranormal outside their race, unless already engaged in a multi-race relationship at the time of said edict.
Meaning: No more vampire/werewolf or any other kind of mixed-species wookie-wook.
Older, less-utilized laws were also reinstituted, such as pack mating rituals and the quest for clan purity, creating dissention and the cry for equal rights.
Empowered paranormal women especially were none too pleased at being herded like cattle at a county fair during full-moon mate calls and essentially given no choice in mating matters. Several full-moon bloodbaths led by said empowered women occurred as a result before a major crackdown was instituted.
Though, even after the peace treaties and summits between human and supernatural leaders, the paranormal were still at the government’s mercy just by virtue of their minority in numbers. The government used that against them, subtly, while trying to take them out by withholding vital necessities.
Blood, on which humans had placed a sky-high tax, became a black-market item for vampires. Lower-middle-class vampires were starving, even dying painful deaths by the dozens without it, forcing some clans to seek out an illegal synthetic supplement.
An uprising called The Opposition sprouted across the country in various forms, protesting the discrimination paranormals now face, with members living their lives in hiding for the greater good. Though considered wanted criminals, they remain steadfast to the cause.
Think Doomsday Preppers times ten.
In other cases, some paranormals chose to move to their new towns and become leaders in their communities, rallying for peaceful coexistence despite the hardships placed upon them.
This is the story of one such town, and how some hot biker vampires formed a gang called Fangs of Anarchy. Made up of one-time corporate and medical professionals who aren’t afraid to open up a can of whoop-ass to protect not just the town they now call home, but the women they love…
“If it isn’t Freya Ashe. Cranky, single werewolf,” a gravelly voice, rich with mischief and doused with sarcasm, murmured in her ear.
“If it isn’t Liam McConnell. Traitorous, equally single vampire,” she shot back, refusing to acknowledge the shiver his silken lips so near her ear created.
“Here to watch the mating game?” he asked, his deep tone resonating in the cold air.
“Here because I’m forced by pack law to be here, and you damn well know it, McConnell.”
“Right. Pack rules say all single female werewolves must attend. Males aren’t mandatory. Got it.” He made a check mark in the air with his finger then grinned at her.
She turned to face him fully, almost angry that even under the purple gloom of the coming night sky, and as pale as he was, he was fucking magnificent to look at.
His presence always riled her; always set her on the edge of something she didn’t understand, other than to rationalize it as raw physical attraction, so she looked away again.
Freya burrowed her runny nose deeper into her scarf and watched her pack leader and the Road Dogs biker crew president, Courtland Dodd, strut across the wide planks of the town’s gazebo as he prepared to name his mate like some bloated black sheep from the ugly side of the peacock family. Pinky, Courtland’s right hand, scurried behind him in a ridiculous caricature of a cartoon sidekick.
“Speaking of pack rules, shouldn’t you be home studying the werewolf laws and bylaws and stupider-than-stupid laws right now? Isn’t that what all good vampires who’ve betrayed their clans do when they jump ship and join a werewolf pack?”
He moved to stand next to her, the bulk of his biceps just touching her shoulder, making her heart thump erratically in her ears. “Isn’t that what I’m doing as we speak? Studying a stupider-than-stupid werewolf law? What better way than to witness the stupid firsthand?”
Point for the vampire. The gorgeous, delectable, traitorous vampire. This was a stupid law. Stupid and utterly archaic. “The mating ritual certainly falls under the stupider-than-stupid category.”
He clucked his tongue, leaning into her, making her nose twitch with the scent of his spicy cologne. “I emphatically agree. Who, in their right mind, wants to mate for life?”
“Said the traitorous vampire who plum out of nowhere wants to be a werewolf.”
Liam rocked back on the heels of his worn boots as if he hadn’t a care in the world. The flames from the bonfire in the middle of the town square where the men gathered highlighted his chiseled features, kissing his just-below-chin-length, raven hair like a lover.
That was Liam. Glib and smug, with a little aloof and bitter resentment on the side. “I never said I wanted to be a werewolf. You don’t see me asking anyone to bite me and turn me into one of you, do you?”
He was taking a passive-aggressive stab at her best friend and former pack mate, Claire Montgomery, who’d done just that—had Liam’s brother Irish bite her so they could become eternal mates.
But tonight wasn’t the night for Liam to poke at her friend. Freya despised the mating ritual. It rubbed raw every nerve in her defiantly feminist body. She didn’t need a mate, and she wasn’t especially interested in the longevity of her pack.
“Really? Then why are you and Courtland suddenly BFFs? Because the last time I checked, you and the Fangs all hated Courtland Dodd. Yet, every day since you had that all-out brawl with your brother over Claire and he booted you from the club, I see you cozying up to Courtland at Ahab’s. Oh, wait!” She paused to sharpen her tongue. “I know what it is. You’re not a Fang anymore, so that made your dislike of Courtland evaporate like it never existed, right? Leave Claire out of this, Liam. She’s happy. That’s all I give a damn about.”
Liam scoffed, his distaste for her best friend evident.
Ah. There it was. Just a small piece of Liam’s bitter pie, rearing its ugly head. His fight with his brother over Claire.
No one was more surprised than Freya when Liam and his brother Irish had engaged in a fistfight the likes of which no one in their small town of Rock Cove, Maine, had seen since their mutual races had been forced to cohabitate under the new human government laws.
It began when her best friend Claire Montgomery, a werewolf and the local librarian, and Irish McConnell, president of the biker club Fangs of Anarchy, fell in love. A relationship Liam openly despised due to the tensions it brought between his vampire clan and Freya’s pack.
But Claire had fixed that—by having Irish turn her into a vampire. An honest-to-God bloodsucker. He’d drained her almost dry and reanimated her just to make Claire his for eternity.
When Liam found out what his brother and Claire had done, he’d lost it. As a result of the ensuing fight, and the disrespect Liam displayed for Claire, Irish had booted his brother not just out of the Fangs, but of the McConnell clan—in front of everyone in the town square. Leaving Liam a lone wolf. No pun intended.
Since then, Liam had been buddying up to Courtland, her pack’s new leader by default since his brother Gannon’s death, and everyone was speculating about it.
Freya’s eyes narrowed as she sniffed the air at his disapproval. “Save your disapproval about Claire. She’s my best friend and your brother’s new mate whether you like it or not.”
“I damn well know who Claire is, Freya,” Liam reminded tersely.
Freya sighed, watching the puff of condensation leave her mouth. There was mostly no talking to Liam on any other level than the one labeled “resentful” these days.
He wasn’t shy about his dislike for the new government or his anger for having to leave his pediatric practice back in New York. He also wasn’t shy about hating werewolves.
But that didn’t make him any less sexy—which made Freya despise herself. Liam hated her kind with arrogance and visible distaste, but she still had the unmitigated gall to lust for him.
She shoved her hands into the pockets of her down jacket and decided to taunt him. Because she liked seeing his hard, square jaw clench, deepening the dimple in his chin, and his brilliant smoky eyes flash.
That always helped to alleviate her aching longing to find out what it would be like to have Liam thrust deep inside her, his enormous body covering every square inch of hers.
She’d never admit it anywhere but in the solitude of her bedroom, but Liam made her insides a puddle of goo. His scent, his thick thighs, his bulky arms, that deep dimple in his chin. All of him left her a total glop of loose limbs.
“So where is Claire tonight, anyway? Shouldn’t she be here holding your hand?”
Freya hated the sneer in his voice when he said Claire’s name. “I’ll remind you again, she’s your sister-in-law now. Your family. My best friend. So if you can’t speak her name without a primal grunt, don’t speak it around me.”
Said grunt, from deep in his throat, purred along her spine, making her nipples spike hard against her bra. As if on cue, his hard jaw tightened and his eyes flashed his anger before he masked it with indifference. “Yeah. Family. If that’s what you want to call her. She’ll never be pure as far as I’m concerned.”
Freya cocked an eyebrow at him, the condescending eyebrow she’d used a million times in court as a well-paid defense attorney. “And you won’t ever be a werewolf, no matter how many beers you watch that slug Courtland and his dicknuckle biker buddies drink at Ahab’s while you’re trying so desperately to be one of the pack. So I’m not sure what your point is here—”
“Hey!” Claire called, waving to her as she approached, pushing her way through the crowd of people gathered for the mate.
If Claire had been beautiful before, she was even more so as a vampire. Her pale face somehow enhanced her flame-red hair and her eyes now had a rich glow burning in them.
She was happy with Irish, happier than Freya had ever seen her, even when they’d lived in San Francisco before the paranormal crackdown. That much was evident, and for the most part, she was happy for her best friend.
It was only every once in a while that the green-eyed monster crept in when Freya least expected it to, but she wrestled that demon alone. In silence.
When Claire’s eyes caught sight of Liam, they changed, morphing from light to dark, but it didn’t stop her from coming to stand next to Freya.
Liam nodded to both women, his dark head dipping before he grumbled out, “And on that note, have a good mate call, Freya.” He sauntered off into the crowd, his tight black jeans hugging his bulging thighs, his long, black leather trench coat—the one he wore in place of the jacket he was stripped of when he was ousted from the Fangs—fanning out behind him
“So, brrr, huh?” Claire said on a chuckle, nudging her.
Freya’s eyebrow rose. Obviously they were going to ignore the subject of Liam. “Oh, ‘brrr’, my ass. You can’t feel the cold anymore. Don’t taunt. It’s a little gloat-y and might even earn you a throat punch if you keep it up.”
Claire wrapped her arm around Freya’s shoulder and squeezed so hard she’d swear she heard her bones whimper in protest. “Do I hear some green-eyed monster in your tone?”
Freya shrugged her off and scoffed, peering into Claire’s pretty face, almost glowing under the light of the full moon. “You’re damn right, you do. Only you, when faced with the idea of mating with one of these heathens, would have a vampire turn you in order to avoid spending a life of pure torture with these antiquated grease monkeys. At least the vampires in this town are good-looking. So I bow to your genius. But if you razz me once more about having to attend this fuckfest of a mate when it’s zero below out and you can’t even feel my pain, I will throat punch you.”
Claire pouted comically, her raspberry lips pressing together. “You wouldn’t hit me, because first, I’d flatten your ass with all my newly acquired vampy skills. Second, I didn’t mean to fall in love with a vampire. It just happened during a really stressful time.”
That stressful time being when Claire was accused of murdering their former pack leader and Courtland’s brother, Gannon Dodd—who also, at the time, happened to be Claire’s intended mate.
Freya patted her arm then hooked her hand through it. Gannon had deserved to die—plain and simple. “You’re right. And as compensation for your pain and suffering, you deserved to have Irish turn you into a vampire so you’ll never have to come to one of these mating rituals again. If I could avoid this ridiculous display of knuckle-dragging, I’d rather be a bloodsucker, too.”
The grief Claire was the brunt of from her former pack mates stung her. Claire would never admit it, in fact, she’d stare it down with defiance, but she’d been called a traitor more than once since she’d been turned, and it hurt. Freya knew it hurt her because there was always an apology in her voice even when she defended her choice.
“It was the only way Irish and I could be together now that our races have instituted these rules of separation amongst us. I did what I had to in order to be with the only man I’ve ever loved. I’d do it a hundred times over.”
“And I wouldn’t blame you. All this mate call and clan purity almost makes me want to join The Opposition.”
Claire made a face of disbelief at her. “You? In The Opposition? Wouldn’t your heels get in the way when you’re hiding deep in the woods, packing heat and planning your next attack on the meanie-butt humans and their absurd government laws? There’d be no time for you to do your nails if you’re hiding in some drug-infested halfway house or living in some secluded cabin in the woods,” she teased.
It was fair to say The Opposition likely wasn’t her cuppa, due to her love of all things pretty. Though, since she’d been forced to move here, she didn’t much care what she wore. “But I’m a hella strategist. Just ask anyone from my old firm. You don’t need pretty nails to plan a course of action.”
Just five years ago, she was a lawyer in San Francisco. Happily single, working her way up to partner at the prestigious Bittner, Bristow, and Payne. Now she resided in Rock Cove, Maine—or the Lobster Tundra, as she’d jokingly dubbed it—had no job, and lived off a meager supplemental income from the government.
Every day since the move, she thanked Jesus and her mother for teaching her to hoard her money like an old woman hoarded cats.
Even if she couldn’t be in the thick of some corporate trial, she could at least afford to live well. Not that she did. Since she’d been uprooted, her love of designer skirts and pretty shoes had fallen to the wayside. There was nothing and no one to wear them for.
But she missed sparring with her legal opponents, the rush of taking a bitch down when they least expected it.
She even, albeit reluctantly, missed the nickname her associates had given her—Ambush Ashe. Infamous for taking her opponents in court by surprise, she’d earned the name.
Claire rubbed her arm and smiled affectionately. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dump salt in the open wound. But I’m hoping someday soon you’ll decide to rejoin me in the land of pretty where we wear cute jeans and mascara.”
Yeah. She couldn’t wait for that day. “So I can what? Dress like a supermodel while I make my next quilt?” She’d taken up quilting as a hobby, as a way to keep busy while she figured out what her life—her future—meant.
“You’re too short to be a supermodel.”
“At five-foot-two, I’m only eight inches shy of a dream.”
Claire stood on tiptoe, looking over the heads in the crowd and scanning the square. “So when does this shindig begin? Soon, I hope. Hadley has homework and I have some work to finish up for the library.”
There was that sting of jealousy again. Just a little one, but it existed. Claire had a family and a mate now, and Freya had her dog Clarence Darrow and her quilting. Certainly equally as fulfilling.
Freya poked her in the ribs with a gloved finger. “You don’t have to be here anymore, remember, Vampire? You’re no longer a werewolf. That means you can go home to your nice warm house and snuggle with your nice cold vampire.”
“You were here for me last mate call. Our friendship resides on Two-Way Street.”
Freya tucked a chunk of her hair behind her ear and shivered at the memory. “Last mate call we almost predicted Gannon was going to call you out. Of course I was here for you. No way would I let something that traumatic happen to you alone. But this mate call, I think we’re good. I think Courtland has his eye on one Miss Petra Morrow, anyway. Short of wearing a T-shirt declaring as such, she’s certainly made it no secret she wants to be female alpha.”
Claire wrinkled her nose. “She seems like such a nice woman. What the hell makes her want to mate with someone like Courtland?”
Freya knew exactly what she wanted. It was what all women in the pack now craved because there was little else to crave. “Power, I suspect. Being the alpha female would bring her power, and she’s a smart woman, if her past profession in forensics is any indication. It’s not like she couldn’t run circles around Courtland’s brain if she wanted to. You do remember how easily led he was by big brother Gannon, don’t you? I’m guessing Petra could have whatever she wanted, given some time to convince Courtland. Coupled with the bigger checks Courtland gets from the government because he’s a town official, and she’d get a pay raise, too. Those are the only angles I can think of because it sure isn’t his charisma laced with the scent of sweat and cheap beer.”
There was a rustle in the crowd as Courtland took his place behind the microphone on the floor of the gazebo.
“I think the show’s about to start. Courtland looks pretty pleased with himself tonight, huh?” Claire asked.
As she kicked the hardened snow at her feet, Freya clenched her jaw to keep from heckling Courtland Dodd while he stood smugly looking over the crowd, as though all the eligible women of the pack were frothing at the mouth to be considered his chosen one.
“If the two brain cells he has left had any life in them at all, he’d see every single woman looks positively green around the gills at the possibility of mating with him. I wish he’d stop posturing and get on with it. I want to go home.”
Claire laughed, tinkley and light. “So you can make another quilt, supermodel?”
“Actually, smarty pants, I was going to dye my roots because no supermodel’s roots should look like mine.” She tugged at a strand of her hair, holding it up to the light of the moon. Her blonde had gone dingy and dirty—much like her life.
Courtland tapped the microphone with a thick finger, quieting the crowd. His straggly hair blew around his shoulders in the frosty air, greasy and unkempt. As he cleared his throat and began to mumble into the mic, Freya promptly tuned out, disgusted by the whole process.
When the return to the ways of old went into full force once the council realized they could find some packs extinct with the new laws in place, nights like this became quite frequent.
The ways of old meant you no longer had a choice about who you were mated to. When you were called, your duty was to mate—no matter who did the calling. Yet, most of the eligible, single male candidates in her pack here in Rock Cove were made up of Neanderthal bikers with greasy hair and bad teeth who drank all night and abused their power as pack leaders.
What kind of longevity did the council hope to gain with fools like Courtland Dodd and his sidekick who went by the name Pinky?
Pinky…The name was as ridiculous as he was.
Fuck Courtland. Fuck his stupid motorcycle gang who collectively shared one set of teeth between the lot of them. They were ill-mannered, uneducated imbeciles. Fuck them all.
There was a gasp, rousing her from her hateful thoughts.
A loud group gasp.
And then there were eyes starting at her. Hundreds of pairs of eyes.
Glowing under the buttery globe of the moon.
She looked to Claire, whose eyes were also staring at her, but they were kind of wide and astonished.
Mouths began to move, hands began to clap, but the sound had a weird, muffled effect to it.
And then Claire was shaking her, her voice rushing into Freya’s ears. “Freya!”
“What?” she yelled over the cheering from the crowd.
“Weren’t you listening?” she hollered back, her red hair flying about her head.
Claire’s face went whiter than its usual shade of pale. She gripped her arm, pulling her close, and began moving her through the crowd of smiling people. “The mate call, Freya,” she hissed in her ear.
Freya yanked her arm out of Claire’s grip, startled by the panicked vibe she was picking up from her friend. “Where are we going and why are you dragging me around like an ill-behaved two-year-old? So Courtland called his mate. Whoop-whoop.”
Claire stopped dead in her tracks, ignoring the people milling about them, and grabbed her chin, forcing Freya to look at her. “Look at me, and try to focus on my words. Yes, Courtland called his mate. He called you, Freya. You!”
Liam slid onto the barstool at Ahab’s and listened to the roar of the crowd outside as Courtland named his mate. The flames from the bonfire swept the sky as even his own kind gathered to watch the freak show.
The mate had become an event in town—a reason to gather. Potluck dishes were made, hotdogs were roasted, buttered popcorn and hot chocolate scented the air.
There was little to do here in Rock Cove. A community, in order to thrive and coexist, needed structure, rules, something to look forward to, and as much as the mating ritual disgusted him, he understood why it had become a party of sorts.
To some it was cause to celebrate. Clearly, it wasn’t a celebration for Freya and her feministic, independent thinking. And he didn’t blame her. The mate call was a putrid display of chauvinistic fodder, made up of little boys who knew nothing about the gift of a woman.
Freya…Damn. That woman.
He’d watched her for two years now; watched her rounded hips and even rounder breasts hidden away in the bulky sweaters and sweatpants she chose to wear. He’d watched her lips, the color of ripe strawberries, purse in not-so-silent-distaste over the Dogs and their poor behavior at least a hundred times.
He’d smelled her. Fuck, had he smelled her. Smelled the scent of her lavender-and-sage body wash when she breezed past him in town, her dirty-blonde hair in a messy ponytail, her cornflower-blue eyes serious. Imagined himself lathering that very soap in his hands under the hard spray of a shower just before he drove them between her legs and spread her wet flesh to ready it for his eager mouth.
And he hated himself for it. He hated that when his hand reached for his cock in the shower, Freya’s strawberry-colored lips were wrapped around it, her pink tongue gliding over it in an image so clear, he had to grit his teeth.
He hated that he wanted to strip her of the oversized clothing she wore until she was naked before him, with her nipples hard and tight and her plump pussy visible to his lustful eyes. He hated that he wanted to devour every inch of her until her hands gripped his hair and she screamed his name over and over.
He hated that he couldn’t admit that to anyone, and in his hate, he’d built a nice cocoon of cocky, or what some would call an arrogant distance between himself and everything werewolf.
He was good at it, too. He was good at keeping his bullshit fantasies and his Freya fetish to himself. He’d keep right on doing it. He’d keep right on ignoring her wide eyes, full of flashes of vulnerability. He’d keep right on ignoring how goddamn angry seeing her at the mate call left him. How it filled him with rage to know that someday, one of those jackholes would be her mate.
The double doors of Ahab’s burst open, forcing him to dig himself out of his dark mood and focus on the ruckus happening all around him.
Courtland strode toward him across the brick-colored concrete floor littered with peanut shells and slapped him on the back, the smell of beer puffing from between his thick lips. “Time to celebrate, Bloodsucker. I got a mate!”
Liam made an effort to relax under Courtland’s grip on his shoulder. Sometimes, it was all he could do not to chew his hand right off his damn wrist every time the puke touched him, but he fought the impulse and smiled instead. “I heard. Congratulations, man. Best of luck.” You piece of shit.
The crowd spilling into Ahab’s parted then, their loud voices becoming hushed whispers momentarily before someone chanted, “Freya! Freya! Freya!”
Liam spun around on the barstool, his eyes scanning the litter of people to see Freya, clinging to Claire Montgomery as they were dragged into the bar.
Liam sat up straight, sniffing the air, smelling Freya’s discontent and even some terror mixed in with the excitement of the crowd. He damn well hated when she was unhappy, but he hated it from afar.
He hitched his jaw at Pinky, trying to keep his question cavalier. “What the hell’s going on with her? She looks like someone just belted her in the gut.”
Pinky spat some chew on the floor, grinding it into the concrete with his booted foot and shrugged his shoulders. “I think she’s a little in shock is all. She’ll get the fuck over it.”
Pinky looked at Liam as though he were the brainless of the two. “Yeah, you know, shock. Like the kind of fucking shocked when you hit the lottery or win some shit on Wheel of Fortune.”
Liam’s eyes narrowed. “Speak English to me, Pink. She doesn’t look like she just won a car from Pat Sajack. So what the hell kinda shock are you talking about, man?”
“The kind of shock a chick like that has when she hits the mate jackpot. She’s Courtland’s now, dude. He chose Freya as his mate.”
* * * *
“Just follow me, Freya!” Claire ordered with a firm tug on her arm, dragging her toward the bar and pushing the overzealous crowd out of their way.
She nodded woodenly, her feet moving because they had to do something or she’d bust out of this dive and run so far, so fast, she’d become a blur.
When they finally made it to the long, sticky bar, well away from Courtland at the far end, Freya collapsed against it, clung to it, waited—prayed for the dizziness to pass.
Courtland Dodd had called her as his mate.
Smelly, greasy-haired, backward-ass, IQ-of-an-inanimate object, smarmy, lying Courtland Dodd.
It was time to drink.
Freya slammed her hand on the bar, summoning Lachlan Macgregor. She didn’t bother to linger on his handsome face the way she might have even just an hour ago, though he was certainly lovely to look at. With his thick chestnut hair and green eyes, he made all the women in town melty and giggly.
But this was no time to giggle. She’d been called out for the mate—to Courtland Dodd. Would repeating that over and over in her head ever be any less vile?
She swallowed her disgust and leaned forward, shouting a terse demand, “Whiskey—straight. A lot of it. And screw that dinky excuse for a glass. Give me the bottle.”
His eyebrow rose when he threw the towel he was holding over his broad shoulder. Occasionally she dropped into Ahab’s for a girls’ night with Claire and some of the women of the town, and Lachlan was always pleasant enough. “The whole bottle, Freya? That’s not like you.”
“Suddenly you know me? I don’t need a damn babysitter. I need a bartender. I said the whole bottle.” Maybe two.
“You shouldn’t drink, Freya. Not now,” Claire warned, her eyes sending the girlfriend message.
Right. Because too much drinking always led to trouble for her. But how much more trouble could one be in than to be called as Courtland Dodd’s mate?
Freya’s anger, raw and hungry for a bite out of someone, spiked hard, making her temples throb. She yanked off her scarf and threw it on the bar. “Is that what you thought when Gannon called you as his mate? Or are you forgetting the tequila shots you slammed back like Jose Cuervo needed the money?”
Claire threw up her hands and looked to Lachlan. “Bring whiskey. Lots of whiskey.”
Lachlan reached for a bottle of amber liquid behind him and dropped it on the bar in front of Freya, sliding a glass in front of her along with it. He winked. “Just in case you want to go slow.”
Without a word, she removed the top, wrapped her fingers around the neck of the bottle, and took a long, burning swig, letting the sting of it settle in her empty belly.
Claire leaned on the bar top, her fist under her chin, her eyes sympathetic and concerned. “Talk to me.”
Freya smacked her lips after swig number three began to warm her fingertips. “Fuck Courtland,” she spat.
Claire popped her lips. “Yes. Fuck him!” she agreed in girlfriend solidarity. “Now what are we going to do about this?”
She let her head fall back on her neck. “Why me, Claire? Why the hell would he choose me? He hardly even acknowledges I exist, which is fine by me, and suddenly he wants to play house? We’ve barely spoken to each other.”
Claire nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Well, true, but that’s mostly because you never leave your house.”
“Well, look what happens when I do!”
“I don’t get it either, Freya. If I had an answer for that, his reasoning might start to make sense, and I won’t allow that to happen—ever. Nothing he says or does is ever allowed to make sense in my head.”
Pulling her jacket off as the whiskey assaulted her body’s thermometer and her cheeks grew warm, Freya threw it on the floor and slugged back another swallow, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand. “I’m telling you right now. I won’t damn well do it, Claire. I don’t care why he chose me, but I won’t do it. I don’t give a Dog’s greasy ass about the new laws. I don’t care if they put me in prison camp for eternity. An evolved, educated woman like me does not mate with an imbecile like him! I’d almost rather be a bloodsucker than mate with that swine!”
Ethan Dempsey, a fellow pack member who’d sidled up to the bar to order a drink, winced and turned chalk white at Freya’s words before backing away.
Claire clamped a hand over Freya’s mouth and gave her a jolting shake. “Hush!” she demanded in her ear. “Do you want everyone to hear you, for Christ’s sake, Freya? Like we need that kind of trouble after my mate call went so damn wrong? We’ll figure it out. I promise you.”
Freya shrugged her off, the whiskey hitting her system just enough to free her flappy lips. “Figure it out?” she said in disbelief, her voice rising. “Like you figured it out? Should I let some damn vampire bite me to make this all better?”
“You’re being evil because you’re angry, Freya Ashe,” Claire chastised, not an ounce of hurt in her tone.
“Damn right I’m angry!” she hissed. “I’m not mating with him, Claire. Not a chance in this lifetime.”
Petra Morrow came up behind them, her svelte hip pressing into Freya’s, her smile fresh and as pretty as she was. “So look who won the mate lottery tonight. Congratulations, Freya.” She held up her wine glass in salutation, smiling a cool smile.
Freya turned to look up at her, grabbing the edge of the bar to keep from wobbling. “The lottery? Is being auctioned off like some cow at the 4H like winning the lottery? Did you ever hear the cow declare it felt so lucky it was like winning the lottery?” She frowned. Did that make any sense?
Claire leaned over and verified, “Not winning any arguments here, beloved. Just smile graciously and clamp it before we have embarrassing memories to reflect upon tomorrow while I’m holding your hair and you’re vomiting into the toilet.”
Petra kept her smile on her face, despite what her almond-shaped eyes reflected. “You were chosen as Courtland’s mate, Freya. It’s an honor. It is like winning the lottery, as far as I’m concerned.”
Freya burped, reaching for the bottle and just missing it. “You want my ticket?”
Claire swiped the bottle up and shook her head, grabbing the glass Lachlan had left. “That’s it, you’ve been demoted to drinking from a glass. Time to slow down.” She slid the glass toward Freya with that look of disapproval she used on people who didn’t return overdue library books.
Freya took another sip then set it aside, satisfied the world had become a lovely amber haze of fuzzy. She turned her back to Petra to see Courtland boasting to his pig friends about their mate, and burped again, wiping the back of her hand over her mouth.
Claire leaned in low, putting her arm around Freya’s shoulders and pulling her in close. “You’re going to puke.”
Freya nodded. Yeah. The first burp was usually her sign. “Good. Make sure you park me in front of that pig. I want to graffiti his beer gut with my vomit.”
Claire squeezed her shoulders harder. “Freya, from experience, I suggest you put a sock in it. Let me take you home and you can rant and carry on all you like, but not here.”
She hated when Claire was right. Even in the beginnings of a serious buzz, Freya knew she was right. Knew it was be dangerous to carry on like this. Knew it could come back to bite her in the ass. But mostly, she didn’t care. If it landed her in one of the prison camps, at least she wouldn’t be mated to Courtland Dodd.
“Freya!” Claire hissed. “One last opportunity to move of your own accord or I’m carrying your drunk butt outta here. Over my shoulder, fireman-style, so everyone can see the holes in the ass of your ratty sweats.”
“The horror.” Freya rolled her eyes at Claire, blindly reaching for the glass and guzzling the remainder of her whiskey, then grabbing her coat and throwing it on before she let her best friend lead her out of Ahab’s.
Claire did a good job of weaving in and out of the crowd, keeping Freya close and taking the back door exit to the parking lot.
Setting her against the wall of the back of the bar, Claire put her hands on her hips and stared down at her with a motherly glare. “Did you drive?”
Freya dug around in her coat pocket, fishing for her keys with no luck. She felt more than buzzed now, but it wasn’t the usual buzz good whiskey gave her. It was different, but actually rather pleasant, almost like looking at everything through a Vaseline-covered lens.
Finally, she gave up and struggled out of her jacket, handing it to Claire. “Yep. In there somewhere.”
Claire stuck her hand in the jacket and pulled out the keys, throwing the coat back to Freya. “Put that back on before you freeze to death. Can I trust you to stay put for two seconds or do I have to piggyback your supermodel ass over this icy parking lot?”
Freya giggled, trying with no success to get her coat back on. She lifted a hand and waved Claire off, a hand that didn’t look like hers at all, but that of someone who had incredible grace. She was fascinated by the way she was able to make it swish through the air like butterfly wings.
Claire stooped to pick up her jacket, tucking it around Freya’s shoulders. “Freya?”
She cocked her head and looked up at her friend, mesmerized by the soft aura of color haloed around Claire’s face. “What?”
Claire gripped her shoulders. “Will you be okay alone while I go get the car? I have heels on and the parking lot is slippery, but I can carry you if you need me to.”
“Oh, I’ll be fine. Go. Seize the chariot, milady!” she joked, distracted by the detail in the snowflakes that had begun to rain down from the sky. So pretty…
“Do not move,” Claire ordered, before Freya heard the sound of her heels clicking against the ice.
Claire had said not to move. And at all costs she wanted to obey Claire. Because Claire was her friend. Claire knew best. She’d kept her out of trouble on more than one occasion.
Yet, the impulse to break into a good hard run was the devil on her shoulder, calling to her. The moon, high in the sky like a globe of frosty ice, pulled at her, as though sending her an invitation, making her forget Claire’s warning to stay put.
Tonight she wanted to be free—because she wouldn’t be for long.
Ignoring that utterly incomprehensible thought, Freya wrinkled her nose and began to peel her jacket back off, dropping it to the ground.
“Freya? You okay?”
Liam’s gravelly voice sent a thick wave of pleasure along her spine. The most pleasurable of pleasures ever.
Logically, she knew the whiskey was responsible for this heightened awareness. Not that Liam didn’t heighten everything she owned, but tonight, she was so aware, she could see colors.
Liam’s color was a deep blue lined with inky black fringes. He stared down at her, his eyes hard and dark. He stooped to pick up her jacket, wrapping it back around her shoulders. His nostrils flared and then his eyes changed again, growing darker still.
He shook his snow-covered head as though he were shaking off something that had confused him. “It’s freezing out here, Freya, and you’ve had a lot to drink. Where’s Claire?”
Yeah. Where was Claire, and why did Liam have the same dreamy glow to him Claire had? But she couldn’t remember where Claire was. She could only remember where Liam was. Right here, towering over her, his big body blocking out everything but his chest. “I dunno.”
He leaned in toward her, his nostrils flaring again, then he instantly backed away and shook his head again. “You’re going to get sick, and you definitely can’t drive. C’mon, I’ll take you home. My bike’s right over there.” He hitched his sharp jaw toward the parking lot.
What would it be like to fly on the back of Liam’s bike with his hard back pressed to her chest?
A voice inside her head, one she’d never heard before, not even after an entire bottle of whiskey and an almost stomach pump, egged her on. Why not find out?
Yeah. Why not?
Freya huddled against Liam’s wide back, closing her eyes and reveling in the ripple of muscle beneath leather. Her nose inhaled his scent, clean and masculine, and she sighed, tightening her arms around his waist.
When they pulled into her small driveway, she continued to cling to him, wanting to drive her hands inside his trench coat and roam over his equally hard chest, keep the vibration of the bike’s engine thrumming between her thighs.
Liam slid forward on the bike, forcing her arms to loosen her death squeeze. “You’re home.”
Her head popped up, taking in her small blue-and-white cottage with the square windows and the warm glow of the LED candles she had in each one.
She’d actually begun to love her small two-bedroom house. It was nothing like her swanky apartment back in San Francisco, with its shiny appliances and black-and-white tiled floors and red silk curtains.
“Freya?” Liam dismounted and held out his hand to her. His strong, wide hand with long fingers and neatly clipped nails.
She sucked in a breath of freezing air, letting it sting her lungs, trying to orient herself. The entire ride over here, she’d had moments where she realized she was experiencing a rather glazed effect to her surroundings, but it was much easier to stay in this warm cocoon where everything was lovely and muted.
Taking his hand, she lifted her thigh and swung it off the bike, dropping to the ground. “Thank you,” she managed while she fought an oddly deep remorse that Liam would get right back on that bike and go wherever it was he called home these days.
But Liam didn’t let go of her hand. Instead, he said, “I want to be sure you get inside safely.”
She looked up at him then, only to catch his nostrils flaring and his pupil’s tiny pinpoints. That voice in her head, likely the one where reason resided, reminded her this was odd. She didn’t need someone to hold her hand for the twenty-five feet it took to get to her front door.
But she didn’t care. Liam was holding her hand. So she followed behind, letting him lead, hearing Clarence, her dog, stir from beyond the door.
“Key?” Liam asked, his voice gruffer still.
Key. Where was her key? “Under the mat,” she managed to say, but her words had become thick, her mouth dry.
He sat on his haunches and dug under the mat until he found her key, inserting it into the door handle and pushing it open. Clarence bounded toward him almost instantly, his wet nose nuzzling against Liam’s knuckles.
Liam gave him a scratch between his chocolate-and-white ears before he dropped the key in the basket on the small buffet table she had by the door.
Clarence sniffed her when she reached out to stroke his muzzle, but he only tolerated it for a moment before he backed away and retreated to his favorite spot by the fireplace.
This, too, was also very odd. Clarence, though well trained to wait until he was called to her for a greeting, was also always so happy to see her you’d think she’d been gone for days. Under normal circumstances, at the very least, his butt wiggled uncontrollably in impatience.
But not tonight. Huh.
Still, she was too preoccupied with Liam filling her small entryway with his delicious body to question it further.
Freya cleared her throat, still dry, her thoughts still encased in fuzzy cotton. “Um, thank you for bringing me home.”
He took a step toward her, the muscles of his thighs pressing against his jeans, her eyes fixating on the flex and release of them. “You’re welcome.”
Now her nostrils flared as she took in the unmistakable scent of arousal.
Thick and tangy, it wafted to her nose and settled there.
Her heart began to throb, crashing inside her chest, only moments before every nerve in her body hummed its pleasure and her hands found a life of their own.
She placed one on his chest, taking a shuddering breath inward, her eyes almost rolling to the back of her head.
He was nirvana. Touching Liam was like touching the most forbidden fruit on earth and finding out exactly why it was forbidden.
Because it surpassed all other textures, it brought life to her body, slipped beneath her skin and warmed her to her soul.
Liam glared down at her, stock still and rigid. “I don’t think you should touch me, Freya.”
From that place she knew wasn’t like her, but was successfully goading her, she asked, “But you want me to, don’t you?”
His jaw tightened, accentuating the dimple in his chin. The dimple she wanted to run her tongue over. “It’s wrong.”
Pressing her palm against his thin T-shirt, Freya felt his nipple go hard, fought the impulse to tweak it with her fingers. “That wasn’t the question, Liam.”
He moved in closer, yet, by the way he gritted his teeth, clenched his fists, it was as though he was fighting something. “Move your hand,” he demanded, low and thick.
Her breathing sped up, her nipples so tight, if he didn’t put his mouth on them she’d die standing right here in front of him. Pulling her hand from his chest was an almost painful act, but she let it drop to her side, fighting a whimper.
Still, Liam didn’t move away. Whatever was happening, it was happening behind his eyes, where she watched him wage war with himself. “Fuck!” He spat the word.
Now her heartbeat raged in her ears as he leaned in low; so low she saw the black stubble on his chin. “I’m going to tell you something, Freya. Something I’ve never told anyone else.”
Her eyes darted over his face, confused by the obvious control he was trying to maintain. She licked her lips nervously and whispered, “Okay.”
Bracing his hands on either side of the wall, capturing her head between them, he leaned in even closer. “From the first damn second I saw you, I wanted you. I wanted to rip off those clothes you hide under, drop to my knees and devour your sweet pussy. I can smell you right now, Freya. I can almost taste you on my tongue, and I want to lick every inch of you until you scream so loud, it’ll make my bones rattle. I want to fuck you deep, hard, long. But I can’t.”
She was dizzy, intoxicated by his admission, so dizzy, she had to brace her hands against the wall behind her. Her thighs became soft butter; her body one desperate ache of need.
Where are you in there, Freya? another voice called. The one belonging to her self-esteem. Her pride. By now, the not-so-drunk Freya would have told him to piss off.
“I get it. You hate werewolves.”
That statement should have been her cold bucket of water. She just didn’t understand his hatred of her kind. In fact, she shouldn’t want to understand it. Instead, it should disgust her.
Twirling a thick strand of her hair, he yanked her head backward so her neck arched and she was forced to look into his eyes. “I don’t hate werewolves, Freya,” he growled under his breath. “I want a werewolf I can’t damn well have. That’s what I hate.”
Her breasts jutted forward when he tightened his grip, forcing her chest to meet his. Her tight nipples scraped against his thin T-shirt, and even beneath her thick sweater, she felt him. Yet, she remained silent, staring up at him, daring him with her eyes to act.
She had no words to fill this sexually charged void. All the things he said were all the things she’d thought about over and over.
“Courtland,” he muttered, his hand moving to her hip, massaging the swell of it, mesmerizing her. “There’s Courtland.”
She lifted her chin. Even in this bizarre fugue, she was still aware enough to recognize how much she despised Courtland Dodd. “Never,” she whispered up at him fiercely.
Then everything changed with his next words. “Do you want what I want, too, Freya? Do you want my mouth on you, my tongue deep inside you?”
She swallowed the lump in her throat, her breathing coming in short pants now. She wanted to clench her eyes shut to block out his luscious lips speaking decadent words that made her insane with a lust she’d never felt before. “Yes,” she managed to hiss, forcing the word from her mouth, fighting to keep her hands at her sides.
His nostrils flared again when he wrapped his hand around her waist. It trembled ever so slightly, surprising her. Liam pulled her upward until she strained to even remain standing on her tiptoes. “Then say it, Freya. Tell me. Tell me you want me. Because I warn you, if you say the words, I’ll rip every stitch of your clothing off, spread you wide and fuck you until you won’t remember any other man but me.”
There wasn’t a second’s hesitation on her part. She didn’t question why he’d changed his mind. She didn’t ask what had brought this on. She didn’t care. She wanted what he offered.
She wanted Liam so much it physically hurt. “I want you, Liam.”
There was no hesitation on his part either as, without another word, his lips found her neck, his hand tilting her head back farther, his teeth grazing along the sensitive flesh before he drove his other hand into the waistband of her sweats and yanked them down, leaving her exposed.
The material tore on its way off, adding to her insane lust, and then his hands were on her bare flesh, slipping inside her folds, so wet, so swollen, she almost came from the moment his fingers made contact.
And then he was pulling away, driving her sweater up over her head and unhooking her bra, freeing her breasts.
Again, she watched him as he stood in front of her, every muscle available to her eyes flexing and tensing, rippling as though he fought some inward battle. But his eyes—his eyes gobbled her up, scanning her from head to toe.
He reached out, his thumb and forefinger tweaking a nipple, making her core clench tight. “Beautiful…Like ripe cherries,” he murmured before he knelt in front of her, still fully clothed, and pulled her close.
Her arms instantly wrapped around the top of his head, her toes curling when he took a nipple in his mouth and swiped it with his tongue, surprisingly warm and silky.
Wave after wave of white-hot heat sliced through her when Liam ran his teeth over the rigid peak, making her head fall back on her shoulders and her groan echo in her tiny house. Her legs shook as he enveloped her nipples one at a time, sucking them deeply into his mouth and swirling his tongue over them.
Freya dug her nails into his back, gritting her teeth to keep from screaming, the pleasure was so bone deep—so intense.
And then he was rising to his feet, scooping her up, wrapping her thighs around his lean waist and carrying her to her small hallway. He didn’t ask which room was hers. He simply managed to chose the right door and kicked it open, dropping her to the big bed.
Liam stood over her, staring down as he kicked off his shoes and pulled hers off, too. His jeans swiftly followed, along with his trench coat and shirt—and then he was naked.
Impossibly perfect, breathtakingly naked.
Every chord of muscle in his stomach was shadowed by another, the line of sinew along his hip lickable. His dusky skin, oddly not as pale as one would expect of a vampire, gleaming and smooth.
His chest was wide but his waist was lean, his thighs thick and sprinkled with dark hair. But it was Liam’s cock that took her breath away. Ramrod stiff, jutting forward, thick and as perfect as the rest of him.
Her mouth watered, her hands ached to explore, to touch every inch of him.
Yet he hesitated, his wide fists clenched at his side, his eyes searing her to the bed. “Jesus, you’re more amazing than I ever imagined.”
Freya didn’t move—didn’t breathe—didn’t know what to do short of begging him to make love to her when he spoke the words, so husky and thick.
Grabbing her ankles, he drew her knees up, placing his hands on her inner thighs. Her breathing became choppier by the second, but still he stared at her, his eyes narrowed and gleaming.
It was all she could do not to grab the back of his head and drive his mouth against her flesh, force him to satisfy her. But she knew Liam well enough to know who was in charge, so she waited, swallowing a plea.
Liam finally spread his hands open, pressing his palms into her upper thighs, trailing his fingers over her skin, setting a path of unmerciful fire. He moved in closer, standing so his sides just touched her knees, skirting a finger over her swollen, exposed flesh, slowly, whispering his knuckles across the smooth expanse.
Freya bit the inside of her cheek, her chest heaving, so aroused, so intoxicated by his response to her, she was already fighting an orgasm. He let a finger dip inside her wet recesses, slipping out and grazing her throbbing clit before pulling away.
She fought a scream of frustration when he retreated, but then Liam closed his eyes and moaned as he licked his finger, tasting her, making her chest so tight it hurt. He gripped her knees hard, gritting his teeth, his large body so rigid she thought he might break in half.
Lifting her calf, he draped it over his shoulder, sliding his mouth along it until he was kneeling in front of her, his hair whispering over her leg. She clenched the blanket on either side of her, insane with a pulsing, desperate need, fighting not to lift her hips until he was ready for her.
Liam’s gaze captured hers, his face hard, his eyes on fire. “You’re so smooth, soft…My tongue belongs between your legs. Don’t ever forget that. Watch, Freya. Watch me so you won’t ever forget who belongs right here.”
She couldn’t tear her eyes away from this perfect man, chiseled, hard, poised at her core, demanding she watch him pleasure her.
Her breathing hitched, almost stopping altogether when Liam finally used his thumb and forefinger to spread her then laid his open mouth over her core, flattening his tongue against her clit.
She saw stars behind her eyelids as Liam rested there only a moment before he began to make slow, methodical swipes, dragging his tongue through her swollen folds, swirling it over the sensitive bud of her clit, moaning his satisfaction.
Her heels dug into the mattress, her hands went to his head. She thrust her fingers into his hair, clutching him to her as heat, so white-hot, so thick, began to course through her veins. Every nerve in her body was alive with a driving, throbbing beat toward climax—a destination only he could offer her.
Liam drove a finger into her as he licked, thrusting unmercifully into her slickness. The sound of his mouth on her, the sight of his tongue slipping in and out of her body, was more than she could bear.
Her muscles tensed, fighting the culmination of this superb pleasure, but Liam was too skilled, sucking her clit into his mouth until she exploded. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head, a scream ripped from her throat, hoarse and raspy as she came, bucking against him, pulling him closer, savoring the heat of his tongue.
The sharp release, the incessant pull, dragged her over the edge and dropped her hard, but Liam was there to catch her, sliding up along her body, hauling her close as she gasped for air.
He braced himself over her with his elbows, pressing his forehead to hers as her arms went up around his back and she clung to him, savored every plane of his body sinking against her.
Then his mouth was on hers. For the first time since they’d entered her bedroom, he was kissing her, slipping his tongue between her lips, reigniting the flames that began to lick at her insides.
Freya moaned against his mouth, helpless to do anything but succumb to this newfound pleasure, kissing Liam, tasting herself on his tongue, driving her wild all over again.
He pressed his frame to hers, gluing every inch of their flesh together, searing them, branding her from head to toe, grinding against her until her fingers dug into his back. His scent—and the scent of her on him—left her breathless, left her pulse racing.
When he pulled away again, it was to skim her neck with his teeth, find her breast, lick her nipples to tight peaks once more as his cock brushed between her thighs.
Suddenly, that’s all there was. Liam’s hard, thick shaft burning her, his skin on hers, his delicious weight pushing her into the mattress.
This time, she didn’t wait to show her impatience. She reached between them, gripping his cock, enveloping it in her hand, stroking it until his hips began to move in time with her hand.
“Freya, goddamn it, I’m trying to keep from devouring you. Stop,” he warned from between teeth clenched tight.
She slid his cock between her folds, using it to create friction against her clit, gasping her delight as it teased the aching bud. Wrapping her leg around his hip, she lifted herself higher.
But Liam chuckled before he put his hands at her waist and rolled her over to her belly, hiking her up until his abdomen was at her ass and his shaft between her legs. He leaned down, nipping her spine, running his tongue over the line of her vertebrae.
Freya’s belly coiled tightly, her hands fisted, her knuckles white with anticipation when he placed himself at her entrance. Slick with lust, agonizingly needy, unable to stop herself, she pressed back against him.
And that’s when he drove into her—with such force, she bucked forward and cried out her pleasure. His hands went to her ass, kneading it before gripping her hips and driving upward once more.
He let out a moan, long and low, stilling for a moment, his strong body quaking against hers. “This is so much more than I thought it would be,” he rasped, his voice deep and thick, before he plunged into her again.
Liam’s cock stretched her, filled her, burned inside her, fit her so perfectly she had to clench her eyes shut from the tears stinging at the corners.
His thrusts demanded she accept him, demanded she drive back against him, demanded she allow him to possess her.
He reached around her waist with one hand, found the swollen nub of her clit, caressing it until that searing heat ripped through her again.
As he buried himself in her over and over, the wet sound of their bodies meeting, the hard muscle of his lower abdomen against her ass, Freya couldn’t stand any more.
Her teeth clenched tight, her hands gripped the edge of the mattress as Liam sank into her one last time. Her orgasm was so pure, so guttural, she let out a silent scream and drove back against him as hard and as fast as he thrust into her.
Because there was nothing else but this. Nothing but the wave of sizzling fire in her core, nothing but his hands all over her, nothing but this gnawing ache, this intense, pounding climb to the top of a cliff and the freefall drop over the edge.
Liam gripped a handful of her hair, pulling her upward, making her back arch until his mouth was pressed against her neck and he went rigid.
She heard the elongation of his fangs, the hiss of his completion, the long howl he let go of, the sweet sting of his teeth rasping against her flesh and then her harsh breathing.
Then Liam was pulling out of her, folding her in his bulky arms, cradling her, soothing her until she allowed herself to melt against him, her cheek pressed to his smooth chest.
Freya closed her eyes, falling, sliding into blissful oblivion cocooned by the man who, after tonight, she wasn’t sure she could ever let go.
* * * *
Freya awoke with a hard jolt, as though someone had wrenched her from some deep, black void of nothingness. Her stomach growled an angry rumble, her eyes popping open then slamming shut when bright daylight hit them, making them burn.
Jesus, that had been some whiskey. The next time she saw Lachlan, she was going to have to ask him what the hell the brand was so she could avoid it—forever.
Her head throbbed an almost unbearable rhythm, her nerve-endings licked by invisible flames.
Blindly, she reached for the edge of the bed and forced herself to sit upright.
That was when she realized she was naked.
Which was swiftly followed by the memory of her encounter with Liam.
Even in the throes of this ugly hangover, she remembered Liam and last night. His body hard and muscled against her own, his mouth bringing her to orgasm after orgasm, his lips on hers. The taste of her on his tongue.
She shivered with the recollection, but her underused muscles quivered. She’d never felt so weak in her life.
“What the hell?” she asked, her eyes still closed as she swayed and almost gave up and lay back down, but a hand at her spine stopped her. Wide and cool, it supported her.
“You need to feed.”
Gripping the blanket on either side of her, she shook her head. “No. This doesn’t feel like I need a tenderloin.” She felt as if she would die if she didn’t get something…something she couldn’t put her finger on.
“That’s because you don’t want a tenderloin, Freya.”
She let go of one side of the blanket and brought her fist to her eye, rubbing at the incessant throb. “I’m surprised you’re still here,” she said, trying to keep her voice light.
Flashes of the night before came and went in vivid color behind her eyelids.
Liam, appearing almost angry that he wanted her.
Liam, struggling with some invisible force as he made mind-blowing love to her.
Liam’s fangs elongating…
Holy shit. No.
“I suspect you’re putting two and two together in that razor-sharp brain of yours right now?” The mattress lifted and then Liam’s footsteps crashed in her ears like a slow, merciless jackhammer.
She heard him pull the blinds down before he said, “Open your eyes, Freya.”
“I can’t. It hurts like hell. Why does it hurt to open my eyes, Liam? Even on one of my worst benders in college it never hurt like this hurts.”
And then she felt him, kneeling in front of her, placing his hands on hers. “I need you to look at me, Freya.”
She tried to swallow to prepare for the impact, but found she couldn’t. Panic swept over her, making her want to gulp for air—but she couldn’t do that either. “What’s happening? Tell me now, McConnell, or I’ll chew your head right off those big hunky shoulders!”
“You think my shoulders are hunky?”
“Sorry,” he said, and she heard genuine remorse. Heard it like she’d feel it.
Okay, situation normal all fucked up. “Tell me what’s happening right now. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care how bad you think I might think it is, just say it!” Her eyes finally popped open in frustration and she winced in response to the dagger stabbing her in the middle of her forehead.
This wasn’t like any hangover she’d ever had. Her eyesight was amazing as a werewolf, so were her senses, but they weren’t this keen.
So keen she saw every pore in Liam’s gorgeous face. Which was almost a relief—it meant he wasn’t as perfect as she’d made him out to be.
Vampires had pores, too. Huh.
His eyes flitted over her face, and they were filled with concern. “Better?”
“Nothing is better. Tell me what the hell is going on. Please.”
“We have a situation.”
She had to lean back because watching his lips with her super-duper eyesight was mind-bending. “Situation?”
“That rumble in your stomach, your eyes, how weak you feel. It’s because of a situation.”
She managed to pry her fingers from the blanket and latch onto the front of his T-shirt, giving him a weak shake, dread pooling in her stomach. “Please tell me it’s not the kind of situation that means I’m never going to Aruba again.”
He gripped her wrists and winced, his face, usually so hard, soft with understanding. “You can still go to Aruba, Freya. The sun will only be uncomfortable for the first two hundred years or so. But you get used to it.”
Her fingers began to tremble, her eyes burning with tears she was never going to be able to shed again. “I’m a…”
No. She couldn’t say the word. It was impossible. How had this happened?
Liam nodded. “A vampire.”
There was that remorse again. She distinctly heard it.
“But there’s more,” he added—sheepishly, too, if she was using this newer, more defined sense of hearing correctly.
Freya held up a hand. “I want to say shitty things that make sense right now, but I’m afraid they’ll just be a bunch of guttural sounds instead of the cutting barbs I want to hurl right—in—your—face! So just spit it all out!”
Liam leaned back on his haunches. “You sure?”
She almost screamed a response, but the idea hurt her ears too much to consider. “Say it!”
Liam’s next words were hushed, solemn. “You’re also my mate. My forever mate.”